7 Photos Show Iconic NASA Space Shuttle Moments, a Decade Since Last Flight

On July 21, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis landed for the final time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, marking the last time a space shuttle would ever touch down again.

The space shuttle program made use of five separate spacecraft throughout its lifetime, which were humanity's first reusable ones. They launched like a rocket, but landed like a gliding airplane.

The program's final flight concluded three decades of record-setting spaceflight achievements. Its milestones are numerous, and it launched technology into space that was cutting edge at the time and still serves the scientific community today.

Below are some photos documenting key achievements of the program from its earliest missions to its last.

STS-1: The first launch

STS-1, the first mission of the space shuttle program, began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. NASA

Space shuttle Columbia, pictured above, took flight as the first mission of the space shuttle program. On board were astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen.

The spacecraft was the first of its kind at the time. The mission codename STS-1 stood for Space Transportation System-1, and each subsequent mission was named STS-2, STS-3, and so on.

STS-7 and STS-8: First American woman and first African-American in space

Sally Ride
Sally Ride became the first female U.S. astronaut during the STS-7 mission in 1983. NASA

The first of these photos show Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, on board the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 during STS-7. Above, she is pictured in a mission specialist seat preparing for de-orbit.

The photo below shows Guion "Guy" Bluford, who became the first African-American astronaut to fly in space on board Challenger during STS-8. He is pictured in-flight using one of the shuttle's treadmills.

Guion "Guy" Bluford
Guion "Guy" Bluford working during the STS-8 mission, in which he became the first African-American to fly in space. NASA

STS-31: Hubble launched into space

The Hubble Space Telescope is deployed into orbit around the Earth by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990 during STS-31. NASA

In April 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched the iconic Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around the Earth.

The telescope, which is still used today, is pictured above, still attached to Discovery in space during STS-31. The photo was taken with a handheld Hasselblad camera.

STS-88: International Space Station gets first U.S. compartment

STS-88 deployed the first U.S. section of the International Space Station in orbit. Astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman are pictured here during the mission conducting a spacewalk. NASA

In 1998, the space shuttle Endeavour launched the first U.S. module to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of STS-88.

The photo above shows astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman on the last spacewalk of the mission as they connect Unity to the Russian Zarya module that was already in orbit.

STS-116: A challenging mission to give ISS permanent power

The challenging STS-116 mission to work on the ISS. Here, astronauts Robert L. Curbeam Jr. and Christer Fuglesang carry out a spacewalk task during the mission. NASA

NASA has called STS-116 one of the most challenging missions of the space shuttle program.

Launched in December 2006, the space shuttle Discovery took a crew to orbit to rewire the International Space Station's power system and continue its construction.

At one point, a number of the ISS' solar arrays refused to retract back into their storage boxes, which had to be corrected by troubleshooting on the ground.

The photo above shows astronauts Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang on the first of what was to be multiple spacewalks during the mission.

STS-135: The final mission

Astronaut Mike Fossum on a spacewalk during STS-135, the last mission of the shuttle program. Getty / NASA

STS-135 was the final mission of the space shuttle program. It saw the space shuttle Atlantis launch on July 8, 2011 and land on July 21.

In the photo above, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, who was already aboard the ISS at the time of STS-135, is pictured pointing at the camera whilst on a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk devoted to ISS maintenance and construction.