The space shuttle Atlantis landed this morning at 5:57:00, completing both STS-135 and the shuttle program. The first shuttle, Columbia was launched in April 1981. Over the intervening thirty years, two shuttles and their crews were lost in flight, five shuttles flew in total, and the crafts traveled a total of 548,049,445 miles. The landing of Atlantis marks the first time in 30 years that the United States has not had the capacity to put humans into space. Atlantis will spend its retirement on display at the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA launched the Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-135, its final mission, and the final mission of the 30 year long shuttle program at 11:29 ET. The mission was delayed with an unexpected hold at T-31 seconds when an error indicated that the Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm had not fully retracted. Visual examination showed the error was a computer glitch and the countdown continued. Originally, Atlantis was supposed to have flown its last mission in May, 2010, but the current mission was added on October 11, 2010. The first shuttle launch, of Columbia, occurred on April 12, 1981.
NASA has announced that the final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will occur on July 8, 2011. This will also be the final launch of the space shuttle program, which began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Atlantis was previously scheduled for a final launch in May, 2010.
NASA announced the four museums which will receive the space shuttles Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis, and prototype shuttle Enterprise at a press conference held on the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight and the thirtieth anniversary of the first launch of Columbia. Discovery has already flown its final mission. Endeavour‘s final launch is scheduled for April 29 and Atlantis‘s final launch for June 28.
The disposition of the shuttles is:
- Discovery: Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
- Endeavour: California Science Center, Los Angeles, CA
- Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- Enterprise: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York, NR
United Space Alliance has proposed the Commercial Space Transportation Service, which would keep two orbiters in the space shuttle fleet, Atlantis and Endeavour active and flying two missions each year from 2013 through 2017 while the United States gets a new generation of manned launch vehicles ready. NASA has not officially commented on the USA plan and is publicly stating that the current plans to send the three orbiters to museums.