Final liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis as it ascended from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on the STS-135 mission, Friday, July 8, 2011(Image: NASA)
When the space shuttle Atlantis touched down at 5:57 a.m. EDT this morning at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center it marked the end of an era. Over 30 years, NASA's Space Shuttle program has overseen a total of 135 shuttle missions for the five-shuttle fleet, beginning with the April 12, 1981 launch of Columbia carrying two astronauts into space on an operational test flight. In their lifetimes, the world's first reusable spacecraft have been used to launch and repair satellites, carry out cutting-edge research and facilitate the construction of the largest manmade structure in space, the International Space Station (ISS). As the curtain comes down on the space shuttle era we take a look back at the craft that have defined space travel for a generation.