30-year space shuttle era to end with Atlantis STS-135 landing

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"On an evening that is draped in emotion and steeped in history, down the hallowed halls of Mission Control here in Houston, this is likely the final shift in the history of space shuttle program." —NASA commentator Rob Navias, on the live-streamed coverage of shuttle Atlantis' landing.

Space shuttle Atlantis' wakeup song for landing day was "God Bless America" by Kate Smith, played at 9:29 p.m. EDT, for the entire crew and all the men and women who have worked for the shuttle program over the years. Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will begin deorbit preparations a little before 1 a.m. EDT for their planned landing at 5:56 a.m. at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

More at SpaceFlightNow, and of course at NASA.gov. Astronauts have been tweeting from space. You can track the shuttle's descent live in Google Earth, too: KMZ. For groovy ambient electronica mixed with the live NASA audio, tune into Soma FM's Mission Control feed.

Boing Boing pal Miles O'Brien recorded a video farewell to the shuttle mission for the PBS Newshour.

When Atlantis lands and is retired, America will no longer have a vehicle with which to bring humans into space. Yes, NASA or private industry plan to deliver that eventually, but for now, we'll be renting space from Russia. As you might imagine, many who were involved in the US space program during the Cold War era are none too happy at this strange turn of history.

Consider this line in this blog post a moment of silence and respect for all of the astronauts, workers, and families who have been part of America's space shuttle era over these past three decades—and for those astronauts who did not return.