Space Shuttles Passing in the Night

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Endeavour, NASA’s youngest shuttle, with 25 missions and 123 million miles on the odometer, returned from its final spaceflight early Wednesday, joining fleet leader Discovery in transition to retirement.

The third and last shuttle is not far behind them. Atlantis was rolled out to the launch pad for NASA’s last shuttle mission (pictured below), as Endeavour headed home. The Kennedy Space Center won’t be so busy for years to come.

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“Times of transition are very difficult,” said Atlantis astronaut Sandy Magnus, who was at the Florida spaceport with her three crewmates to watch the final shuttle rollout to the launch pad.

“I think in the end we’ll end up with a good plan and we’ll have a solid future ahead of us,” she said.

Atlantis will close out the 30-year-old shuttle program with a final cargo run to the International Space Station. Launch is targeted for July 8.

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Image: Space shuttles, coming and going. Credit: NASA