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End of Space Shuttle mission as Atlantis lands for last time

Space shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Center ending an era. It will be the last time a spaced shuttle lands on the ground in the U.S. as the program comes to an end after 30 years.

“After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle’s earned its place in history. And it’s come to a final stop,” said Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson.

“Job well done, America,” Mission Control communicator Barry Wilmore replied.

Ferguson said the shuttle program “has changed the way we view the world, and it’s changed the way we view our universe.”

“There are a lot of emotions today, but one things indisputable: America’s not going to stop exploring,” he vowed.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said:

“This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era, but today, we recommit ourselves to continuing human spaceflight and taking the necessary — and difficult — steps to ensure America’s leadership in human spaceflight for years to come.”

Many shuttle program workers watched their job slip away as the shuttle landed. 3,200 workers involved in the program are expected to be laid off next month.

Space Shuttle Discovery will be exhibited at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum near DC and Atlantis will stay at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Right now, at this moment, it’s a celebratory mood,” Mission Control shuttle systems instructor Michael Grabois said. “We all know it’s the end of the program … but we’re all here to savor the moment.”

NASA plans to focus more on unmanned missions to other planets that are more cost effective. Missions are planned to land astronauts on Mars and asteroids, but there are no plans to take American’s back to the moon, leaving it to be colonized by other nations.

Atlantis carried enough supplies to the International Space Station miles above the earth to keep it functioning through 2012.

Astronauts will have to catch a ride up on Russian rockets from now on at a cost of $63 million per seat. NASA will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help private industry begin manned flights by 2015. One company called Space X that receives such funding may start flying supplies up to the space station by the end of this year.

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