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10 July 2011

Atlantis Shuttle leaving earth for the last time

Image: At 11:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on July 8, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis lit its rockets and roared into space. Four astronauts made the climb toward orbit and the International Space Station (ISS), where they will arrive on Sunday. The 135th and last flight of the U.S. space transportation system, or STS, comes 30 years after the first flight in April 1981.

The 12-day mission is the 33rd for Atlantis, which is named for an oceanographic research vessel. In fact, all of the shuttles were named for famous ships of exploration: Challenger, Endeavour, Discovery, and Columbia.

“The shuttle's always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” said Space Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson shortly before liftoff. “We're not ending the journey today. We're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”

- Discovery News