Blastoff!: Shuttle Endeavour Makes Final Launch After 20 Years Of Service

1||May 16, 2011: The space shuttle Endeavour blasts off on its 25th and final voyage Monday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. ||Pat Benic/UPI/Newscom&&

2||The launch is the next to last for NASA’s shuttle program, which will come to an end later this summer after a 30 year run with the launch of the shuttle Atlantis in July. ||JOE MARINO / BILL CANTRELL/UPI/Newscom&&

3||Endeavour flew its first mission almost two decades ago, in May, 1992. ||JOE MARINO / BILL CANTRELL/UPI/Newscom&&

4||The Endeavour’s crew for its final launch (from left), Mission Specialists Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, Roberto Vittori, and Michael Fincke, Pilot Greg H. Johnson, and Commander Mark Kelly ||NASA/Kim Shiflett&&

5||Commander Mark Kelly is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was critically wounded by a gunshot to the head in Tucson in January. Giffords has been rehabilitating since then, and has made so much progress that she was able to attend the shuttle launch. ||NASA/Kim Shiflett&&

6||The shuttle Endeavour sits on the launch pad before the mission. The launch was previously scheduled for late April, but was pushed back to fix an issue with a power control box. || NASA&&

7||Endeavour will rendezvous with the International Space Station (shown here) to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a device that scientists hope will provide new information about dark matter and antimatter. ||NASA&&

8||President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with the Endeavour’s crew in April. ||NASA/Bill Ingalls&&

9||The Endevour shuttle was commissioned in the late 1980s to replace the shuttle Challenger, which exploded upon launch in 1986. Here, it’s shown arriving at Kennedy Space Center for the first time atop a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on May 7, 1992.||NASA&&

10||The shuttle Endeavour, suspended in a Vehicle Assembly Building in 1998, waiting to be outfitted with rocket boosters. ||NASA&&

11||Endevaour, straddling several layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, prior to rendezvousing with the International Space Station during a mission in 2010. ||NASA&&

12||Astronaut Michael Gernhardt on a space walk from Endeavour during a mission in 1995. Endeavour’s nose is reflected in Gernhardt’s visor. ||NASA&&

13||Endeavour on a runway at Kennedy Space Center in 1994, after touching down to complete a mission to conduct radar imaging of Earth’s geology. ||NASA&&

14||Endeavour, landing at Kennedy Space Center after a mission in 1996. ||NASA&&

15||The shuttle Endeavour, shown in orbit in 2000. ||NASA Johnson Space Center – Earth Sciences and Image Analysis&&

16||Endeavour blasting off from Cape Canaveral in 1995.||s70/s70/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

17||Endeavour, in 1996. The shuttle is named after 18th century British captain James Cook’s ship that took him across the Pacific Ocean, hence the British spelling. ||Nico Pavan UPI Photo Service/Newscom&&

18||Astronauts Jerry L. Ross (left) and James H. Newman, conduct a space walk during the STS-88 mission in 1999. ||NASA UPI Photo Service/Newscom&&

19||The shuttle Endeavour, on the launch pad in late April, 2011. ||NASA/Bill Ingalls&&


21||Endeavour blasts off through cloud cover for its final mission.||Pat Benic/UPI/Newscom&&

22||NASA will retire the shuttle Endeavour, as well as the two other remaining shuttles, later this year.||NASA&&