It was space history in the making
The US shuttle Atlantis has lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on the programme’s 135th and final flight.
Bad weather conditions had threatened the launch and a last minute technical glitch delayed take-off for around three minutes, But, 30 years after the first shuttle flight, NASA finally gave the green light for the last.
Four veteran astronauts have blasted off for the International Space Station on a 12-day mission.
The shuttle programme has seen triumphs and tragedies, notably the Challenger disaster in 1986 and Columbia’s disintegration in 2003.
The programme is ending because of high operating costs.
With the shuttles now set to become museum pieces, NASA will no longer have any manned spacecraft at its disposal. That means that its astronauts will have to hitch a lift from the Russians to get to the ISS in future.