The 135th and final flight in NASA's shuttle program, Atlantis has begun its final 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) since July 8. Once the space shuttle comes back from space, the 30-year shuttle era will be over.
Carrying a crew of four and the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies, Atlantis' crew greeted members of the ISS in orbit July 10. During this historical final visit to the ISS, the astronauts transferred equipment and supplies to the ISS.
Atlantis was named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966. The boat had a 17-member crew and accommodated up to five scientists who worked in two onboard laboratories, examining water samples and marine life. The crew also used the first electronic sounding devices to map the ocean floor.
Atlantis' construction began on March 3, 1980. With the help of lessons learned in the construction and testing of orbiters Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger, the construction of Atlantis cost about half the time in man-hours spent on Columbia. On April 9, 1985, Atlantis went into NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Weighing in at 151,315 pounds, Atlantis was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia.
Start the slideshow to see the latest Atlantis mission photos released by NASA: