May 6, 2010

Space shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth

Space Shuttle Atlantis was the fourth operational shuttle built and is one of the three currently operational spacecraft in the Space Shuttle fleet. Space Shuttle Atlantis is named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966. Orbiter Vehicle Designation is OV-104.


In June 1995, STS-71 performed the first Space Shuttle docking with Russia's Mir Space Station. This mission was very important historically because it was the 100th manned space launch by the United States, the first ever on-orbit change out of Shuttle crew members and the docking created the largest spacecraft ever placed into orbit at that time.


Atlantis pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions, flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station. When linked, Atlantis and Mir together formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at the time. The missions to Mir included the first on-orbit U.S. crew exchanges, now a common occurrence on the International Space Station. On STS-79, the fourth docking mission, Atlantis ferried astronaut Shannon Lucid back to Earth after her record-setting 188 days in orbit aboard Mir.

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