CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
Each of the five shuttles had its share of historic flights. In the 1990s, Atlantis carried several astronauts to the Russian Mir space station for long-duration flights that set the stage for international cooperation in building the space station. One of those astronauts was Oklahoma native Shannon Lucid, whose flight set a record for time in orbit by a woman that held until 2007. Atlantis also flew the last servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.
Atlantis took off with some items that were flown on the very first shuttle flight. One of the segments of the solid rocket boosters that launched Columbia in 1981 was used again to launch Atlantis. These segments typically are reflown several times. The Atlantis crew also is carrying a U.S. flag that was flown on Columbia’s maiden flight. The flag will be left aboard the space station.
When Atlantis’ wheels roll to a stop on the Kennedy Space Center runway at the end of its 12-day mission, it won't have far to go to reach its final resting place. It will be placed on exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center.
When the people who made it fly come to visit, they may be thinking what Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach said two days before launch, “I’ve been one of the luckiest guys in the world.”
• Atlantis: Upon return, will be retired to the Kennedy Space Center
• Columbia: Destroyed on re-entry; Amarillo, Texas-native Col. Rick Husband and his entire crew lost
• Challenger: Destroyed on liftoff; entire crew, including civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe, lost
• Discovery: Retired to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum iin Washington, D.C.
• Endeavour: Retired to the California Science Center in Los Angeles
• Enterprise (only used within earth's atmosphere)