End of the Shuttle

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End of the Shuttle

[Double booms] MISSION CONTROL: Piercing the pre-dawn skies, the space shuttle announces its arrival at the launch site with its signature sound of twin sonic booms, having gone subsonic for the last time.

The space shuttle program rolled to a halt 10 years ago today. Atlantis completed the 135th shuttle mission, 30 years after the first.

The shuttle had been intended to replace almost all of America’s rockets. NASA promised to launch up to a flight a week. But shuttles were harder to maintain than expected. So launches were separated by months, not days.

Still, the shuttle was a remarkable machine. Its crews launched and repaired satellites, including Hubble Space Telescope. They conducted experiments. And they built most of the International Space Station.

But after the shuttle Columbia was destroyed during re-entry in 2003, NASA decided to ground the fleet after the space station was done.

For the final flight, Atlantis carried up spare parts and scientific equipment. Then it headed home. AUDIO: three bells. ISS: Atlantis departing the International Space Station for the last time.

It landed at Kennedy Space Center on July 21st, 2011.

MISSION CONTROL: Nose-gear touchdown. … Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, its place in history secured, the space shuttle pulls into port for the last time—its voyage at an end.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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