The End of the Space Shuttle Program
Oh the places we went!
In a Space Age finale, the launch of Atlantis on July 8 concluded the U.S. space shuttle program. After 135 missions flown in five orbiters over three decades—during which there were the catastrophic losses of two shuttles and 14 astronauts—the routine flight of STS 135 to the International Space Station (ISS) culminated 50 years of almost continuous U.S. manned spaceflight. It also the marked the first time the U.S. gave up its technology to lob humans into space without a clear plan for where it will go after it regains its spacefaring capability.
Now, with Russia's Soyuz affording the only access to the ISS, the U.S. is developing its next generation of space hardware, aiming to send astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit before 2030—most likely the moon or an asteroid.—Michael Battaglia
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