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U.S. shuttle Atlantis lands in Florida after final mission

RIA Novosti

14:50 21/07/2011 MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. shuttle Atlantis made its final landing on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, putting an end to NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle program.

The Atlantis lifted off on its final flight on July 8 to deliver cargo and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). It undocked from the station on Tuesday.

The shuttle brought back the STS-135 expedition consisting of astronauts Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

Now that the U.S. shuttle fleet is officially retired, Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft are to take the bulk of crew rotation and cargo missions to the ISS until at least the middle of the decade.

Russia has signed a number of contracts with NASA on the delivery of U.S. astronauts to the ISS until 2016, which take into consideration annual inflation rates and rising cost of materials in Russia.

NASA is paying the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, more than $1 billion for crew transport services over the next four years.

Last year, the U.S. space agency said it would scrap shuttle flights saying that the spacecraft had become outdated and too expensive to maintain.

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