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Space shuttle program set to retire in 2010

Latest update : 2008-07-08

NASA will launch its last shuttle into space on May 31, 2010, 29 years after the program's inaugural launch.

The final flight in NASA's space shuttle program will take off on May 31, 2010, four months before the Endeavour, Discovery and Atlantis are retired, the agency said Tuesday.

Two further shuttle missions are planned to the International Space Station this year, on October 8 and November 10, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said, while another five flights are scheduled for 2009 and three for 2010.

Endeavour will make the final flight of the shuttle program, which began with the launch of Columbia from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida on April 12, 1981.

"The approved target dates are subject to change based on processing and other launch vehicle schedules," NASA said in a statement.

"They reflect the agency's commitment to complete assembly of the (space) station and to retire the shuttle fleet as transition continues to the new launch vehicles, including Ares and Orion."

Endeavour will have carried out 25 missions, Atlantis 32 and Discovery 38 by the time they are taken out of service in September 2010.

The shuttles were the first space vehicles that could be re-used. There were originally five in the fleet, but two never returned.

Challenger exploded shortly after its launch on January 28, 1986, and Columbia was destroyed on its re-entry into the atmosphere on February 1, 2003. Each shuttle was carrying seven astronauts, all of whom died.

Date created : 2008-07-08