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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the landing convoy vehicles accompany space shuttle Atlantis as it is slowly towed from the Shuttle Landing Facility to an orbiter processing facility. Atlantis' final return from space at 5:57 a.m. EDT concluded the STS-135 mission, secured the space shuttle fleet's place in history and brought a close to America's Space Shuttle Program. Main gear touchdown was at 5:57:00 a.m. EDT, followed by nose gear touchdown at 5:57:20 a.m., and wheelstop at 5:57:54 a.m. On board were STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.    On the 37th shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-135 delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, equipment and supplies that will sustain station operations for the next year. STS-135 was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which has spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled 125,935,769 miles, and also the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program.  For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/index.html. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett KSC-2011-5810

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the landing convoy vehicles accompany space shuttle Atlantis as it is slowly towed from the Shuttle Landing Facility to an orbiter processing facility. Atlantis' final return from space at 5:57 a.m. EDT concluded the STS-135 mission, secured the space shuttle fleet's place in history and brought a close to America's Space Shuttle Program. Main gear touchdown was at 5:57:00 a.m. EDT, followed by nose gear touchdown at 5:57:20 a.m., and wheelstop at 5:57:54 a.m. On board were STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. On the 37th shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-135 delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, equipment and supplies that will sustain station operations for the next year. STS-135 was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which has spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled 125,935,769 miles, and also the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program. For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/index.html. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett KSC-2011-5810

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the landing convoy vehicles accompany space shuttle Atlantis as it is slowly towed from the Shuttle Landing Facility to an orbiter processing facility. Atlantis' final return from space at 5:57 a.m. EDT concluded the STS-135 mission, secured the space shuttle fleet's place in history and brought a close to America's Space Shuttle Program. Main gear touchdown was at 5:57:00 a.m. EDT, followed by nose gear touchdown at 5:57:20 a.m., and wheelstop at 5:57:54 a.m. On board were STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. On the 37th shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-135 delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, equipment and supplies that will sustain station operations for the next year. STS-135 was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which has spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled 125,935,769 miles, and also the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program. For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/index.html. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Space Shuttle program was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and lands as a glider. Although the concept had been explored since the late 1960s, the program formally commenced in 1972 and was the focus of NASA's manned operations after the final Apollo and Skylab flights in the mid-1970s. It started with the launch of the first shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, on STS-1. and finished with its last mission, STS-135 flown by Atlantis, in July 2011.

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21/07/2011
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Kennedy Space Center, FL
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