The shuttle Atlantis is launched NASA's final shuttle mission, called STS-135, on July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT (1526 GMT) from the agency's Kennedy Space Center spaceport in Florida. Atlantis flew a 12-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver spare parts and supplies. It was the 135th and last mission for the shuttle fleet since flights began in 1981.
Here's a look at five of the most patriotic shuttle missions ever flown:
As the most complex spacecraft ever, it's surprising to note that it was also the first U.S. manned space vehicle launched without an unmanned powered test flight. Because of this, NASA described the mission as "The boldest test flight in history."
Every 97 minutes, Hubble completes its orbit around Earth, moving at the speed of about 5 miles per second (8 km) — fast enough to travel across the United States in about ten minutes.
First scheduled for July 1, 2006, weather conditions postponed the STS-121 launch to July 2. In a patriotic turn of events, that launch was also postponed, and the space shuttle ended up blasting off two days later, on Independence Day, giving a whole new meaning to patriotic firework celebrations.
NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011 after 30 years of service to make way for a new program aimed at deep space exploration.