Skip to content
CBBC on TV
Make It Digital
Search the BBC
Space shuttle history: 30 years of missions
21 July 2011
Last updated at 13:42
The launch of space shuttle Atlantis marks the end of an incredible 30-year project by American space agency Nasa.
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.
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.
It all lifted off in 1981 - when the first space shuttle launched. Named Columbia, it was the world's first reusable spacecraft!
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.
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!
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.
The shuttle journeys also allowed astronauts to carry out repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope.
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.
In 1998 the oldest man to go into space flew on the Discovery shuttle - 77-year-old astronaut John Glenn.
The longest shuttle flight lasted nearly 18 days.
The final shuttle to be built was Endeavour which was named by school students.
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.
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.
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.