NASA Announces Final Flight Of Shuttle Atlantis

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The Space Shuttle Atlantis, NASA's fourth shuttle, is set to lift off on mission STS-135 on July 8, at 11:26 a.m. EDT, marking the final time a NASA space shuttle is scheduled to fly. The mission comes 30 years after the program began and is scheduled to be a 12-day mission that will deliver parts to the international space station. Atlantis will be the last of three shuttles to retire, following Discovery, which landed for the last time in March, and Endeavour, which touched down for the last time during the first hours of June 1.

Construction of Atlantis began in March of 1980. It finished in March 1985 and first flew in October of that year. Prior to its final flight, Atlantis had traveled 120,650,907 miles and had spent more than 293 days in space. It had performed 4,648 orbits on a total of 32 flights. According to NASA, "Atlantis is named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966." Atlantis pioneered Shuttle-Mir missions and when linked together with the Mir in space formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at that time. In retirement, Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

A gallery of memorable images of NASA shuttles at work: