EDIT: Oops – did we say “final launch”? We meant “final launch of the Endeavor.” Turns out that the final launch of the space shuttle program will be on Atlantis, for STS-135, which was not originally scheduled to be funded, but now is!
The final launch of America’s space shuttle program, STS-134, occurs today, at 8:56am EST. Commanded by Mark Kelly, wife of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (the target of an attempted assassination in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011), this flight will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station. This penultimate launch marks the end of a program begun in the late 1960s to launch a reusable space vehicle on a regular basis. Although at times, it has been a difficult journey, with the destruction of two shuttles (Challenger and Columbia), the shuttle program helped make the International Space Station a possibility, and made space flight both routine and exciting. We salute the brave souls who have touched the stars in these missions, and thank NASA for a legacy of wondrous spaceflight! To view the final launch online, check out this page at Wired magazine.