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The Space Shuttle Era

An era that began at 7 a.m. on April 12, 1981, with the launch of Columbia, came to a close. Space shuttle Atlantis launched on mission STS-135 on July 8. The mission delivered parts and supplies to the International Space Station was the 135th and final flight of the shuttle fleet. Atlantis landed just before dawn July 21, ending a 13-day mission and 30-years of shuttle space flight. Two sonic booms rang out loudly around the shuttle landing strip, and Atlantis glided to its final rest in the darkness.

Mission STS-51J was the first flight of space shuttle Atlantis, launching Oct. 3, 1985, to deliver a communications satellite for the Department of Defense.
Atlantis, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Oct. 7, 1985 after a successful 4-day mission. [Photo credit: NASA/KSC | Oct. 3, 1985]
The latest:
Special Reports:
  • Shuttle trivia quiz (June 10, 2011)
    Our own quirky celebration of obscure space shuttle information, so please try our first, last and admittedly odd space shuttle Trivia Challenge.
  • Endeavour's final launch
    An interactive look at the 25th and final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, with 3D diagram of the shuttle, profiles of the STS-134 crew, and a timeline of space flight history.
  • Atlantis crew mission to repair Hubble (May 11, 2009)
    The mission to repair the Hubble telescope.
  • Remembering Challenger (Jan. 28, 2006)
    The space shuttle initiative came to a halt in 1986, but after improvements NASA and the nation recovered and pushed forward. Front page PDF (Jan. 29, 1986)
  • The space shuttle Columbia tragedy (Feb 2003 - Feb 2004)
    NASA was left with tragic puzzle as nation mourned.
Space shuttle Endeavour
Photos and video
The space shuttle Atlantis roars off of launch pad 39 B at the Kennedy Space Center September 9, 2006 as it begins the flight of STS-115.
Recent stories
The space shuttle Atlantis begins its slow journey to launch pad 39A from the Vehicle Assembly Building for the final mission of the space shuttle era May 31, 2011 at the Kennedy Space Center.
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About this report
  • The final flight of space shuttle Atlantis represents the end of NASA's shuttle program. In this special report, we compile shuttle program news, photos, facts and history. From the launch of Columbia in 1981, to the tragedy of Challenger in 1986, to the final flight of Atlantis in 2011, we bring you the coverage from the St. Petersburg Times and

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