The space shuttle Atlantis is photographed at its prelaunch at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 7, 2011.
July 8 through July 21 marks one decade since the last NASA space shuttle flight, with the Atlantis shuttle launching on July 8, 2011, to spend 13 days partly delivering supplies to the International Space Station.
On the 10th anniversary of that last space shuttle flight, let’s take a spacewalk down memory lane.
The NASA space shuttle journey began in 1972, when then-U.S. President Richard Nixon announced the intent to develop the world’s first inexpensive, reusable space shuttle for travel into space.
The first space shuttle flight, STS-1(Space Transportation System-1)Columbia, took off nine years later from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 12, 1981. Columbia’s debut launched a 30-year program that included 135 missions; the transport of millions of pounds of cargo to and from space; firsts for racial, gender and ethnic minority astronauts; repairs and updates to the International Space Station; and more.
And though the program had its iconic firsts, it was also mired in tragic, fatal accidents at times. Here are eight pivotal moments from the space shuttle era.