On July 21, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event marked the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program’s 135th and final mission. The three remaining shuttles, which were still in use until the program’s retirement, will now be displayed in museums and science centers across the country.
The Atlantis will reside at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex. Space Shuttle Endeavor will be in the California Science Center in Los Angeles. And, as of April 19, Space Shuttle Discovery, the most accomplished vehicle in the fleet, will be on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
To coincide with the Discovery’s arrival, the Smithsonian Channel will premiere a two-hour special titled “Space Shuttle: The Final Countdown” on Sunday, April 22, at 6 p.m.
“Space Shuttle” will take a close look at the epic story of the craft which has served as America’s flagship in space for 30 years. Through interviews with NASA scientists, administrators, astronauts and historians, viewers will learn about the Shuttle’s conception as the world’s first reusable spacecraft and the trials and success in its creation.
They will see the program’s other early successes, including its maiden two-man flight, and get firsthand accounts of its tragedies, the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003. Viewers will also learn more about the notable achievements which would not have been possible without the Shuttle program, including the launch of the Hubble Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station.
The Space Shuttle itself is a technical marvel, a reusable spacecraft capable of leaving Earth’s atmosphere and then returning safely to the planet’s surface. During its 30 years, it has taken 355 astronauts into space, completed more than 21,152 Earth orbits and flown a total of 542 million miles — enough to reach Jupiter.
Those who wish to learn more about the Space Shuttle’s fascinating history and pay homage to the end of an era, both in America and in space travel, will not want to miss “Space Shuttle: The Final Countdown."