Space Shuttle program officially ends with Atlantis' safe return

That's a wrap folks! At precisely 5:57 a.m. EDT, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed back safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the very last time, successfully completing mission STS-135 and ending the Space Shuttle program for good.

In case you missed the landing (or were sleeping), you can rewatch the entire event here on YouTube.

Ready for Launch

It's been a long run-up to this morning's historic Space Shuttle landing. We cheered as the Endeavour returned and the Atlantis leapt onto the launchpad.

We felt excited when NASA confirmed the Atlantis launch and told everybody to book their tickets, because the final blast-off was really, REALLY coming.

Thirteen days ago, we watched the Atlantis lift off and soar into the sky for its final mission. The timer might have stopped at 31 seconds to go, but the shuttle still blasted off into outer space without a hitch. It felt unreal that that was it.

Ready for Return

And as Atlantis's crew of four left the ISS to prepare for their return home, we shed a tear because they got to see amazing stuff like the Aurora Australis from space — magnificent.

Undocking from the ISS, the Atlantis deorbited backwards (cause that's how it goes!) and then reversed, maneuvering back towards Earth.

Ready for Retirement

Never again will a Space Shuttle fly — at least, not as we know 'em. The next time anybody sees the Atlantis, it'll be all glammed up and sitting in the Smithsonian.

We feel extremely sad that the Shuttle program is all done — finito — but remain excited for the future of the U.S.'s space exploration plans.

Goodbye, Space Shuttle, you'll be greatly missed. You inspired generations of younglings to reach for the sky for 30 years. You deserve a good rest because, boy, have you earned it. Until we meet your successor, we bid you adieu!

Via NY Times

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