CAPE CANAVERAL – Soaring across the predawn haze, Atlantis glided to Earth early Thursday – capping a 30-year program that saw hundreds of astronauts go into space. The landing at 5:57 a.m. ET went off without a hitch, CNN informs. But it marked a sentimental finish for the four astronauts, who woke up to “God Bless America” on their final morning in space. “This one was dedicated to all the men and women who have worked for the space shuttle program in the past three decades,” NASA said. Soon after it landed, its commander said the program ends on a hopeful note. “The space shuttle changed the way we view the world, the way we view the universe,” Commander Chris Ferguson told NASA.
“America’s not going to stop exploring. Thanks for protecting us and bringing this program to a fitting end.” The 13-day mission to the International Space Station was to stock the orbiting laboratory with supplies, food and equipment. The crew of four delivered more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, equipment and other supplies, NASA said. I
The first shuttle, Columbia, blasted off in April 1981. Since then, space shuttle crews have fixed satellites, performed scientific studies, and ferried materials and people to International Space Station Alpha, a football field-sized construction project in orbit. NASA launched the program on April 12, 1981, and has sent 355 people from 16 countries to space. Five space shuttles have gone on a total of 135 missions.