July 8 is the official beginning of the end for NASA's space shuttle program the agency recently announced.
The space shuttle Atlantis will be the final shuttle to launch and explore space as part of a program that began 30 years ago. STS-135 has been confirmed to launch at July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT. at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Launch Pad 39A.
The first space shuttle mission came on April 12, 1981 after being formally launched a decade earlier by then President Richard Nixon.
The space shuttle Columbia launched in 1981 with two people aboard, Commander Joseph H. Engle and Pilot Richard H. Truly. The mission was simple: basically, give the space shuttle a test run.
Since then, 355 astronauts have launched into space including those on the last mission numerous firsts have been accomplished on space shuttle mission (too many to count or name). The International Space Station was built, constructed and refined thanks to the space shuttle program. An entire generation of space explorers have opened up a lifetime of knowledge because of it.
Atlantis, which was the last of the original space shuttles to launch, flew its first mission in 1985. In that first mission, it installed two defense communication satellite systems. In subsequent missions, it launched probes for Jupiter and Venus, carried the first Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science, had the first shuttle docking with the space shuttle Mir from Russia and supplied and helped carry astronauts constructing the International Space Station.
This Atlantis mission is set to carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station and its crew. The mission will carry a crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
This flight is incredibly important. The cargo that is coming up on this flight is really mandatory for space station, Bill Gerstenmaier, assistant administrator for space operations, said in a press statement.
This mission is 12 days long. Currently, launch pad technicians are pressurizing Atlantis' main propulsion system following the closure yesterday of the spacecraft's payload bay doors.
After the space shuttle ends, NASA will work with the Russian Space Agency to send astronauts into space through Russia's Soyuz space shuttles. Following that, NASA plans on helping launch privately run space shuttle programs.
Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna