The space shuttle Atlantis ended its final space flight in Florida on Wednesday, capping a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. NASA will retire the fleet this year after two more flights by sister shuttles Discovery and Endeavour.
REUTERS - The space shuttle Atlantis landed in Florida on Wednesday, capping a 12-day mission to deliver a new module to the International Space Station before NASA retires the shuttle fleet after two more flights.
Circling high over the Kennedy Space Center to burn off speed, commander Ken Ham gently nosed the 100-tonne ship toward a landing strip three miles (5 km) away from where he and five crew mates blasted off on May 14 to begin NASA's 132nd shuttle
Atlantis touched down at 8:48 a.m. EDT (1248 GMT), completing its 32nd and final flight. The shuttles began flying in 1981 and are being retired due to cost and safety concerns.
NASA plans to fly each of its remaining shuttles, Discovery and Endeavour, once more this year to complete assembly and outfitting of the space station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction for 12 years.
President Barack Obama wants to cancel a follow-on program to the shuttles to develop rockets and capsules aimed at returning U.S. astronauts to the moon, and instead develop new technologies for travel farther from Earth. The proposal, which
is pending before Congress, is controversial.
During a weeklong stay at the station, Ham, pilot Dominic "Tony" Antonelli, spacewalkers Garrett Reisman, Steve Bowen and Michael Good and astronaut Piers Sellers delivered and installed a Russian docking and research laboratory, six huge
batteries for the station's solar power system, a spare communications antenna and a work platform for the station's Canadian-built crane.
Before being turned over to a museum, Atlantis will be prepared as an emergency rescue ship for the last shuttle crew.
NASA is evaluating proposals from museums and science centers wanting to display Atlantis and Endeavour. Discovery, which is scheduled to make its last flight in September, is promised to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Endeavour, which will carry the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector to the station, is scheduled to be the program's finale in November.
Date created : 2010-05-26