Today in history: July 8, 2011: Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched in the final mission of the U.S. Space

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Shuttle's Final Mission Highlights

According to History.com, on this day in 2011, NASA's space shuttle program completed its final, and 135th, mission, when the shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

During the program's 30-year history, its five orbiters—Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour—carried more than 350 people into space and flew more than 500 million miles, and shuttle crews conducted important research, serviced the Hubble Space Telescope and helped in the construction of the International Space Station, among other activities.

NASA retired the shuttles to focus on a deep-space exploration program that could one day send astronauts to asteroids and Mars.

Check out some pictures from the epic final mission of Atlantis:
19 PHOTOS
Space Shuttle Atlantis: Final Mission
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Today in history: July 8, 2011: Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched in the final mission of the U.S. Space
Workers and visitors watch as the US Space Shuttle Atlantis moves on November 2, 2012 to the Visitors Center at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for permanent display. The spacecraft traveled 125,935,769 miles (202,673,974 kms) during 33 spaceflights, including 12 missions to the International Space Station. Its final mission, STS-135, closed out the Space Shuttle Program era with a landing on July 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers and visitors watch the US Space Shuttle Atlantis moves on November 2, 2012 to the Visitors Center at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for permanent display. The spacecraft traveled 125,935,769 miles (202,673,974 kms) during 33 spaceflights, including 12 missions to the International Space Station. Its final mission, STS-135, closed out the Space Shuttle Program era with a landing on July 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers and visitors watch the US Space Shuttle Atlantis moves on November 2, 2012 to the Visitors Center at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for permanent display. The spacecraft traveled 125,935,769 miles (202,673,974 kms) during 33 spaceflights, including 12 missions to the International Space Station. Its final mission, STS-135, closed out the Space Shuttle Program era with a landing on July 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
The aft right flight deck of the space shuttle Atlantis December 15, 2011 inside orbiter processing facility 2 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida where the commander or pilot would control approach and docking with other spacecraft thru the aft windows. The Atlantis flew the final mission of the space shuttle program preforming scientific missions along with many missions to the Russian space station Mir and then the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
US Space Shuttle Atlantis final mission commander Chris Ferguson speaks on November 2, 2012 as crews move Atlantis to the Visitor Center of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for permanent display. The spacecraft traveled 125,935,769 miles(202,673,974kms) during 33 spaceflights, including 12 missions to the International Space Station. Its final mission, STS-135, closed out the Space Shuttle Program era with a landing on July 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers and visitors watch the US Space Shuttle Atlantis moves on November 2, 2012 to the Visitors Center at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for permanent display. The spacecraft traveled 125,935,769 miles(202,673,974kms) during 33 spaceflights, including 12 missions to the International Space Station. Its final mission, STS-135, closed out the Space Shuttle Program era with a landing on July 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
The cargo bay as seen from inside the aft left flight deck of the space shuttle Atlantis December 15, 2011 with the docking adaptor (Lwr C) and the CanadaArm (L) inside orbiter processing facility 2 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida . The Atlantis flew the final mission of the space shuttle program preforming scientific missions along with many missions to the Russian space station Mir and then the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO/Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - JULY 21: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Commander Chris Ferguson talk underneath the space shuttle Atlantis shortly after Ferguson and the rest of the STS-135 crew landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility July 21, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - JULY 21: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), space shuttle Atlantis is rolled over to the Obiter Processing Facility shortly after landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility July 21, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
The space shuttle Atlantis lands in the pre-dawn hours on July 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending its 13-day mission. Atlantis touched down for a final time Thursday, ending its last mission to the International Space Station and bringing down the curtain on NASA's 30-year space shuttle program. The shuttle and its four-member US crew landed safely at Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 am (0956 GMT), closing an era of human space exploration for the United States and leaving Russia as the world's only taxi to the ISS. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - JULY 21: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NASA employees and contractors wave flags and take pictures as space shuttle Atlantis rolls toward the Orbiter Processing Facility at a wheels stop event at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility July 21, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by Paul E. Alers/NASA via Getty Images)
The space shuttle Atlantis lands in the pre-dawn hours on July 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending its 13-day mission. Atlantis touched down for a final time Thursday, ending its last mission to the International Space Station and bringing down the curtain on NASA's 30-year space shuttle program. The shuttle and its four-member US crew landed safely at Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 am (0956 GMT), closing an era of human space exploration for the United States and leaving Russia as the world's only taxi to the ISS. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 06: JetPack Man flies through the air and onto the frontstretch to present TMS President Eddie Gossage and SMI Chairman Bruton Smith with the “No Limits” flag that flew on the final Space Shuttle mission with Atlantis prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The space shuttle Atlantis crew waves good-bye to the ship July 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida after it landed several hours earlier, ending its 13-day mission and final flight for the space shuttle program. AFP PHOTO/Bruce WEAVER (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - JULY 21: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the STS-135 astronauts (L-R) Mission Specialists Rex Walheim, Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Chris Ferguson all pose for photographers shortly after they touched down in the space shuttle Atlantis at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility July 21, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
The space shuttle Atlantis is towed to its hanger on July 21, 2011 after it landed several hours earlier, ending its 13-day mission and final flight for the space shuttle program. AFP PHOTO / Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL - JULY 21: In this handout image provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The runway of the Shuttle Landing Facility is marked to show where the main landing gear wheels stopped for the space shuttle Atlantis shortly after it landed early July 21, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station where it delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts. This was the final mission of the space shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of Colombia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
The space shuttle Atlantis is towed to its hanger accompanied by NASA employees on July 21, 2011 after it landed several hours earlier, ending its 13-day mission and final flight for the space shuttle program. AFP PHOTO / Bruce Weaver (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)
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