On this date in history: The final space shuttle launch

FIVE YEARS ago today — July 8, 2011 — Atlantis launched on the final space shuttle mission after 31 years as the centerpiece of America’s human spaceflight endeavors.

“LIFTOFF! The final liftoff of Atlantis! On the shoulders of the space shuttle, America will continue the dream.” – NASA countdown commentator George Diller

“Houston now controlling the flight of Atlantis. The space shuttle spreads its wings one final time for the start of a sentimental journey into history.” – NASA ascent commentator Rob Navias

Relive launch day with this collection of NASA images:

Launch day journal:

Launch story:

STS-135 mission archive:

Why the shuttle program ended:

The shuttle program launched 135 times, traveled 542,398,878 miles that spanned 21,152 orbits of the planet, and carried 355 humans and 3.5 million pounds of payloads as the Space Transportation System.

Our shuttle archive.