NASA HISTORY: Space Shuttle Atlantis Launched One Last Time Five Years Ago

By  //  July 10, 2016

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Traveled Nearly 5 million miles on final journey

ABOVE VIDEO: The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off five years ago this month (July 8, 2011), marking the last blast-off of NASA’s 30-year shuttle program. (CNN Video)

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – Five years ago this month (July 8, 2011), the world watched as Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on her final mission, STS-135.

This was the last launch of the Space Shuttle program.

The decision to end the Shuttle program was announced by President Bush in 2004 in the wake of the Columbia accident. Knowing that there wasn’t enough time or money to build a replacement, the plan was to rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles for access to the International Space Station (ISS) for several years.

A plus up in the NASA budget, the savings from winding down the Shuttle program, and the planned termination of the ISS in 2014-15 were expected to fund the new “Vision for Space Exploration.”

While planning for a gap in U.S. human space launch capability may seem like an odd thing, that has always happened when transitioning from one system to the next.

Even in the 1960s, when NASA budgets were more than six times the current level (in terms of the percentage of the federal budget) there was no overlap between spacecraft systems.

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There were significant gaps between Mercury and Gemini, Gemini and Apollo, and Apollo and the Space Shuttle.


ABOVE VIDEO: Space Shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center one last time ending the shuttle program. (NASA Video)