Space Shuttle Program Ends

space shuttle launch

Before a crowd of thousands, and with millions more watching on television and online, the space shuttle Atlantis launched into space—and history—on July 8, 2011. The liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was the 135th and final launch of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program.

Commander Chris Ferguson led the 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). His crew spent their time in low-Earth orbit performing such tasks as transferring 9,000 pounds of food and other supplies to the ISS and packing up two and a half tons of waste to haul back home. In addition, the astronauts conducted experiments (including one involving an iPhone), granted interviews to media outlets back on Earth, and even took a call from President Obama. Just before dawn on July 21, Atlantis returned safely to Earth, marking the official end of the space shuttle program.

The space shuttle program lifted off in 1981 with the voyage of Columbia. Over three decades, Americans shared in the program’s triumphs and tragedies. We mourned the seven astronauts who lost their lives on Challenger in 1986 and the seven who perished on Columbia in 2003. Despite these setbacks, NASA conducted many successful space shuttle missions. Besides helping build and equip the ISS, the space shuttle launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.

The United States is now without any means of independently sending humans into space. Temporarily, NASA will rely on paying for seats aboard capsules propelled by Russian Soyuz rockets. By 2015, private American companies may be in a position to send astronauts into space. Beyond that, NASA hopes to secure funding in order to design and test the next generation of rockets and spacecraft that could take humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by 2030.

Image credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tom Farrar

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44 Comments

  1. nacho cheese says:

    hi every one

  2. little brophy says:

    wow! I didn’t know the program ended! That’s unbelievable!

  3. Devin says:

    Why does it have to go!

  4. Anonymous says:

    very cool dude :

  5. john says:

    awesome

  6. GUITARMASTER says:

    cool

  7. sherbert says:

    v.v you will be missed nasa~

  8. Anonymous says:

    not cool

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  11. lol says:

    bye NASA you’ll be missed by many including me

    • Decapodicus( i have an xbox live heres my tag) says:

      i agree. make a better decision nasa and keep us on the edge of discovery. PLEASE.

  12. lol says:

    what ever

  13. kylie says:

    i will miss NASA they will be missed by many people.

    • Madison says:

      i know i cant belive it i hate thoughs people who made them stop u know how many people lost there jobs?

      • gabriela says:

        no one lost there job. the astronauts are now flying in the Russian planes, and the scientist are still hard at work trying to make new spaceships for later explorations, they just stopped going to the moon

  14. Anonymous says:

    very helpful for my school project

  15. Anonymous says:

    IT SHOULD NOT HAVE ENDED

  16. dude man says:

    what just happened

  17. tucker says:

    that was cool

  18. Sasha says:

    WHY DID THE PROGRAM END???????????? GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

  19. Anonomous( i dont know how to spell that) says:

    one day you say, “lets try to go to mars!!!!” the next you say,”lets just take away everything and giv up on astronological reasearch!!!!”. REALLY!!!???!?

  20. Anonymous( i now know how to spell that) says:

    WHY NASA WHY!!!???

    • Anonymous( i now know how to spell that) says:

      i really dislike nasa. they just GAVE UP. mabye they at least started to help with minecraft. PRAISE NOTCH!

  21. Sammantha says:

    Duuuuuudddee this was epiclly helpfull for my project

  22. Elizabeth says:

    that was so epic, i am in kindergarden and need help with my astronamy and squarwe roots. any sugestions on the square roots?

  23. ??????? says:

    good

  24. trululuu says:

    lolololoo this sucks

  25. gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg says:

    that is stupid

  26. Hello says:

    Thank you article you helped me with my homework

  27. Iz says:

    This is sad. Now the country that sent the first man to the moon doesn’t even have a space program. But then again, it will cut government spending, which is good.
    please reply to this.

  28. donquel says:

    my comment on this is who said that space is bad =}

    • Ash says:

      ElDo would have been a little far south to here it on this path. Several years ago one was lanidng and passed over Arkansas and it was very clear.I miss sonic booms. Growing up they were very common around here. The sound of Freedom.

  29. emma says:

    i love this story

  30. Shawn says:

    This is cool :)

  31. this guy says:

    come on we need space its awesome

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