On July 21, 2011, Orbiter Atlantis for the last time touched down on the runway at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the last mission of the US reusable space transportation spacecraft under Space Shuttle program. Altogether, 5 such Orbiters have flown into space:Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour.

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The first mission of the Space Shuttle took place on April 12-14, 1981. It was Columbiacarrying onboard astronauts J.Young and R.Crippen. Altogether, there have been one hundred thirty four Space Shuttle launches. A thirty-year long era in the history of manned space flight has come to a close. And it is now a good time to remember the place that the Space Shuttle held in the US-Russian cooperation in space.

Among those who have flown onboard Space Shuttles were not only US astronauts, but representatives of other countries, including Russia, as well. The first Russian cosmonaut to fly on the Space Shuttle was Sergei Krikalev in 1994.

This started a wide-ranging cooperation between Russia and USA in manned spaceflight. This was followed on with ten launches (nine dockings) of the Space Shuttle Orbiter with the Russian space station Mir over the period of 1995 through 1998. And Atlantis Orbiter, which on July 21 brought the Space Shuttle era to a close, was the first of US spacecraft to dock with the station, and subsequently visited it six more times.

The role of the Space Shuttle was to be significantly expanded during ISS construction and operation. When designing ISS, NASA was planning to give to the Space Shuttle the ambitious task of delivering to and returning from ISS all the expedition crews. Russian spacecraft Soyuz were supposed to play a supporting role as a crew rescue vehicle in case of an emergency evacuation from the ISS. Columbiaaccident in February 2003, and the subsequent long grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet, restored the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the role of the crew delivery and return vehicle. Since May 2003, Soyuz spacecraft have delivered to ISS 52 crew members, while Space Shuttles, after their return to flight, have only delivered 11. However, Space Shuttles have played a great role in assembling the current ISS configuration – they delivered eight modules, including a Russian MRM1 module, truss sections, solar arrays, robotic arms and other equipment and materials.

Space Shuttle has earned its place in the memory of future generations.

As for now, for the next five years, the Russian manned spacecraft Soyuz is going to handle the entire crew traffic to and from the space station.

More than 30 years of the US manned Space Shuttle operation are now over. Now, only Russia can support continued work of the crew onboard the International Space Station.

Columbia accident in February 2003 put continuous ISS operation into question. NASA had to ask Russia to provide for the international crews delivery and return. From May 2003 to May 2007, through the efforts of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, there were crews of 2 working onboard the ISS. Since June 2007, the Space Shuttle return to flight made it possible to deliver and return a third (US) crew member of the international crew, while the other two, including not only Russian, but also US crew members, continued to be delivered onboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Since June 2009, Space Shuttle has only been performing the function of cargo delivery and return, while support for the crew of six was picked up by the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. And now the function of cargo delivery will be picked up by Europe and Japan.

         
Photo NASA
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Photo NASA
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Photo RSC Energia
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Photo NASA
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Photo NASA

 

 

 

 

 

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