In pictures: 30 years of the Space Shuttle program

At approximately 8pm last night (AEST), the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Centre for the final time.

The 14-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was the 135th and final mission in the 30 year Space Shuttle Program, in which the shuttles:

  • Launched more than 300 astronauts into space.
  • Completed more than 20,000 orbits of Earth.
  • Docked at the ISS 35 times.

Read our coverage of the end of the Shuttle era here.

In the meantime, enjoy this selection of stunning photography from the Shuttle era:

Space Shuttle Columbia on the launch pad prior to the first Shuttle mission on April 12 1981. EPA/NASA
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Bay in preparation for the final Shuttle launch. Bruce Weaver/AFP
Robert L. Crippen and John W. Young, crew members from the first Shuttle launch in 1981. EPA/NASA
(L-R) Piers Sellers, Stephanie Wilson, Mark Kelly, Steven Lindsey, Lisa Nowak and Michael Fossum, prior to the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006. EPA/NASA
Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad prior to its final flight. Bruce Weaver/AFP
Final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, May 16 2011. Don Emmert/AFP
US Space Shuttle Discovery begins the 100th shuttle mission on October 11 2000 as it climbs into orbit. Bruce Weaver/AFP
View of the International Space Station in orbit around Earth, taken from Endeavour flight STS-134. EPA/NASA TV
Space Shuttle Discovery in orbit around Earth in 2008. AFP/NASA
Final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. EPA/NASA TV
The Space Shuttle Discovery landing in 2004. AFP/Roberto Schmidt
Solid boosters are recovered following the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2000. Bruce Weaver/AFP
Wreckage from the Space Shuttle Challenger, destroyed shortly after take-off on January 28 1986. NASA
Debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia, destroyed on re-entry on February 1, 2003. Bruce Weaver/AFP
Earth, as seen by astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009. AFP/NASA
Mission Specialist Michael Fossum being photographed by Mission Specialist Ronald Garan, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2008. AFP/NASA
Space Shuttle Atlantis as viewed from the ISS. NASA/AFP
The Aurora Australis as viewed from the ISS. Bruce Weaver/AFP
Astronaut Christer Fuglesang, mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006. EPA/NASA
Space Shuttle Atlantis over the Bahamas, as viewed from the ISS. NASA/AFP
Space Shuttle Atlantis touching down for the last time. Topshots/AFP