Yesterday morning, at 11:30 AM Eastern Time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on the last shuttle mission ever. For fans and proponents of space exploration, it was a bittersweet moment to say the least. To celebrate what truly is the end of an era, National Geographic has updated their Space Shuttle Hub page with a look back at the storied vehicle’s tragic and triumphant history.
At various times, NASA‘s fleet of space shuttles has included five different vehicles, including the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. The Nat Geo page covers all of them, and even has articles discussing the two orbiters that were lost – the Challenger, which exploded shortly after take-off back in 1986 and Columbia, which tragically burned up on re-entry in 2003. Other articles celebrate the many achievements of the shuttle program over the three decades they have been in service however, giving the remaining three vehicles the final send-off they richly deserve.
During this final flight of the Atlantis, National Geographic space editor Victoria Jaggard will also be posting regular blog updates on the progress of the mission. She has already covered the launch and will continue to add more thoughts and commentary until the shuttle returns to Earth in about two weeks time.
Tomorrow, the Atlantis is scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station one final time. While there, the astronauts on board will resupply the ISS and perform routine maintenance on the station, which will be serviced by Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the foreseeable future.