Space shuttle history: 30 years of missions

21 July 2011 Last updated at 13:42 BST

The launch of space shuttle Atlantis marks the end of an incredible 30-year project by American space agency Nasa.
Shuttle Atlantis landing on Earth after its final mission
On Thursday 21st July 2011 shuttle Atlantis landed back on Earth after its final mission into space. The landing marks the end of Nasa's incredible 30 year space shuttle project.
Space shuttle Atlantis before its final mission into space
The project aimed to make space shuttles that could be used over and over again, and be a bit like a space truck - able to carry large loads and set up a link between Earth and space.
Space shuttle Columbia launching in 1981
It all lifted off in 1981 - when the first space shuttle launched. Named Columbia, it was the world's first reusable spacecraft!
Space shuttle Challenger moving through fog to launch pad.
The next space shuttle was called Challenger - here it is being moved to its launch pad. Space shuttles were a big deal because they changed the way humans can live and work in space.
Astronaut on a space walk with Earth below him
Check this out - astronaut Bruce McCandless tested a device back in 1984 that lets you go on a space walk without anything attached to you or the spacecraft - looks scary!
Clouds of smoke as space shuttle Challenger is destroyed soon after launching
But the shuttle missions weren't all successful - space shuttle Challenger got destroyed just over a minute into its tenth launch and the astronauts onboard died. Space shuttle Columbia was also destroyed on its flight.
Astronauts and the Hubble Space Telescope
The shuttle journeys also allowed astronauts to carry out repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Fish-eye view of Atlantis in orbit June 1995.
If you add up all the time that the shuttles have been in space it's a massive 1,310 days - that's almost four years.
John Glenn waving and wearing his space gear
In 1998 the oldest man to go into space flew on the Discovery shuttle - 77-year-old astronaut John Glenn.
Space shuttle Endeavour in 2002 - New Zealand can be seen in the background!
The longest shuttle flight lasted nearly 18 days.
Space shuttle Endeavour against the backdrop of Earth's horizon
The final shuttle to be built was Endeavour which was named by school students.
Space shuttle Endeavour is docked to the International Space Station
Here's the space shuttle Endeavour docked to the International Space Station. The shuttles made regular trips there, taking supplies and new bits of equipment up to the astronauts.
Space shuttle Atlantis lifting off on final space journey
But space journeys are expensive stuff and America decided to end the Nasa shuttle project. The last mission by Atlantis was the 135th - and final - shuttle launch of the project.
Astronaut carrying out work
355 astronauts have flown in the shuttles, and two people even flew seven times each! In the future, astronauts will have to travel in vehicles made by private companies, or travel with Russian cosmonauts, to get into space.