At 5:56am EDT, the final Space Shuttle Atlantis landing took place on the runway at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The NASA shuttle landing marks the end of a 30-year program. Mission commander Doug Hurley announced ″Mission complete, Houston″, as the vehicle touched down in the pre-dawn morning. He added, ″After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. Atlantis has come to a final stop.″
Atlantis had flown its last mission to the International Space Station, delivering a year′s worth of food and other supplies. The very first shuttle mission was the launch of Columbia in April of 1981. Today ends the 135th mission for the space shuttle fleet, which will now be dispersed to museums around America. Atlantis will spend its retirement at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be on public display as early as next year.
Today also marks the 50th anniversary of the flight of Liberty Bell 7, a Mercury spacecraft flown by astronaut Guss Grissom. That mission was only America′s second manned space flight, and like the first with Alan Shepard, was a quick, 15-minute sub-orbital mission. The flight had gone well until after the Mercury capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The hatch blew prematurely, causing the capsule to fill with water before Navy helicopters could recover it. Grissom nearly drowned as his spacesuit also filled with water. The spacecraft sunk and was not recovered until July 20, 1999. Grissom went on to fly the very first Gemini spacecraft and was slated to fly the first Apollo. But he was killed in the Apollo 1 fire on February 21, 1967 along with astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis landing today is bittersweet, especially for some 9,000 NASA employees. About 3,000 will be laid off as early as tomorrow. Many veteran astronauts are unhappy that the Space Shuttle program has ended. The shuttles were designed to fly up to 100 missions each. But the program′s annual budget of $15 Billion dollars was deemed too much. So enjoy the video of the final space shuttle landing. It may be many years before another American-built spacecraft takes humans into orbit.