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PICTURES: NASA's Last Human Mission (For a While) PICTURES: NASA's Last Human Mission (For a While)

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SPACE

PICTURES: NASA's Last Human Mission (For a While)

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In this video screen grab provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NASA space shuttle Atlantis begins a scan of its thermal protection system shortly after undocking from the International Space Station July 19, 2011 in space. Space shuttle Atlantis is on the last leg of 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 NASA via Getty Images)(NASA via Getty Images)

With the end of the space shuttle Atlantis's mission on Thursday, no American astronaut will be launched into space on NASA spacecraft until the agency's new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is developed in the coming years. In the meantime, the United States will rely on the Russian space program to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

(PICTURES: Milestones in American Space Flight)

 

Below are highlights of the shuttle program's last mission.

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