For what will be the last time, a space shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 11:29 a.m. today. Atlantis, carrying four astronauts, is conducting the 135th and final shuttle mission, in which it will deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The shuttle is scheduled to return on June 20.
The Associated Press reported that it will be several years, at least three but possibly five or more, until astronauts launch from United States soil again.
“The shuttle is always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” Commander Christopher Ferguson said before taking flight, addressing NASA launch director Mike Leinbach, according to the AP. “We’re not ending the journey today… we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”
The Commander added: “Let’s light this fire one more time, Mike, and witness this great nation at its best.”