NASA is putting a cap on the long-running Space Shuttle program with STS-135, the final flight by Space Shuttle Atlantis, just recently announced to be taking place on June 28th. There are no more missions planned after this, and the 30-year old shuttle program will finally give way to its successor. This will presumably the Constellation Program, aimed at creating unified architecture for orbital, lunar, and potential Mars missions.
The actual status of the mission is somewhat obscure, since the money isn’t really there. But when it’s all funny money anyway, they can probably fire off one last bottle rocket on credit and figure out the payment plan later.
Atlantis itself has been around the Earth 5200 times, for a total of 120 million miles in flight. This last mission, a resupply trip to the International Space Station, would add another 5 million to that total.
Let’s hope neither foul weather nor funding shenanigans delay or cancel the mission. Let’s give this program a proper send-off.