Just about 2 weeks ago, we watched LIVE as the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off for NASA‘s final space mission ever and today we get to see video of the shuttle’s successful return home. Early this morning, <strong>Atlantis successfully returned to Earth and landed safely … bringing an end to about 30 years of manned space exploration. Click below to see video of Atlantis‘s return to Earth and the FINAL end of NASA‘s space mission program.
The last space shuttle flight rolled to a stop just before 6 a.m. on Thursday, closing an era of the nation’s space program. “Mission complete, Houston,” said Capt. Christopher J. Ferguson of the Navy, commander of the shuttle Atlantis for the last flight. “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history, and it’s come to a final stop.” It was the 19th night landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to end the 135th space shuttle mission. For Atlantis, the final tally of its 26-year career: 33 missions, accumulating just short of 126 million miles during 307 days in space. A permanent marker will be placed on the runway to indicate the final resting spot of the space shuttle program. The last day in space went smoothly. Late on Wednesday night, the crew awoke to the Kate Smith version of “God Bless America.” With no weather or technical concerns, the crew closed the payload doors at 2:09 a.m. on Thursday. At 4:13 a.m., Barry E. Wilmore, an astronaut at mission control in Houston, told the Atlantis crew, “Everything is looking fantastic, there you are go for the deorbit burn, and you can maneuver on time.” “That’s great, Butch,” replied Captain Ferguson. “Go on the deorbit maneuver, on time.” Thirty-six minutes later, as it was passing over Malaysia, the Atlantis fired its maneuvering engines for 3 minutes 16 seconds, slowing it down by 225 miles per hour and beginning the fall back into the Earth’s atmosphere. The shuttle, which travels backward while in orbit, flipped around to a nose-first position. In the clear, windless predawn, sonic booms announced its impending arrival. It made a wide turn in preparation for the approach for its final landing. During the 13-day mission, the Atlantis ferried 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station. With the retirement of the shuttles, the space station will now rely on Russian, European and Japanese rockets to bring up supplies. NASA is also counting on two commercial companies, the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., and the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to begin cargo flights next year. For Atlantis, NASA will now begin the work of transforming it into a museum piece. It will be mounted nearby at Kennedy’s visitor center.
And so … the end of an amazing era not only in our nation’s history but in the history of mankind. At some point in the future, man will return to space but for now, NASA plans to focus its time, energy and money on developing new technology to explore farther reaches into space without sending astronauts into space. I know that man will return to space at some point, hopefully in my lifetime, but … yeah … for now … the NASA manned space mission program is dunzo. It’s kind of a sad day for me, to be honest. I grew up watching space shuttle launches … and now … they’re finished.