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Kennedy Space Center marks 10th anniversary of final space shuttle mission

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Fla., will celebrate the 10th anniversary of STS-135 — the last flight of space shuttle Atlantis and the final space shuttle mission — on July 8, 2021.

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex - Space Shuttle Atlantis
Photos courtesy of Kennedy Space Center

Space shuttle Atlantis was NASA’s fourth space shuttle. The orbiter arrived at Kennedy Space Center on April 9, 1985, and was launched on her first space flight, STS-51-J, on Oct. 3, 1985.

Crew of Atlantis STS-135
Crew of STS-135
Photo courtesy of NASA

Space shuttle Atlantis flew 33 missions over her 25-year career with her final launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 2011, with a crew of four astronauts: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

“We celebrated Atlantis eight years ago when we first revealed our attraction, and now, as we are once again beginning to launch crewed missions to space from Kennedy Space Center, this anniversary of Atlantis’ last flight and the last space shuttle mission is particularly poignant,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex - Space Shuttle Atlantis

Now on a new mission to educate and inspire the next generation of space explorers, space shuttle Atlantis is displayed at the visitor complex, tilted at a 43.21-degree angle as if floating in space with its payload bay doors open.

The event (included with daily admission and open to all Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests) will begin at 2 p.m. on July 8, 2021, and will feature nearly the entire crew of “The Final Voyage” along with other veteran astronauts.

Panelists will include STS-135 astronauts Ferguson, Walheim, and Magnus, as well as William Shepherd (STS-27 and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame member), Norman Thagard (STS-30 and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame member), and Nicole Stott (the last station crew member to return to Earth via a space shuttle on STS-129).

The panel will share firsthand mission memories from their time on space shuttle Atlantis from a stage set up below the orbiter. The astronauts will also take audience questions via social media using #Atlantis10 and will be available for socially distanced “selfies” with guests following the event. Guests should note that astronauts will not sign autographs nor take close-up photos.

Space-flown Atlantis artifacts from NASA’s archives will also be unveiled for the first time on July 8, 2021. Throughout the weekend, guests can pose for photos with Atlantis under a unique balloon arch and sign a celebratory banner to commemorate the anniversary.

Click here for more information and to make a reservation.

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