Today in History: July 21

“Mission complete, Houston, After serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop.” —Space Shuttle Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson

After a thirteen-day mission, Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis glided to a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida five years ago today. It was the final landing in the three-decade-long Space Shuttle program’s history, and it was a beautiful night landing (photo above).

The four-person crew visited the International Space Station, which had become, after the Columbia re-entry disaster in 2003, the only mission any of the space shuttles were allowed to participate in: a mission to a destination in space where the shuttle could be inspected for launch debris damage.

Atlantis‘ final journey was the 166th—and still, the most recent—manned NASA space flight. American astronauts hitch a paid ride to the ISS via Russian rockets now. It was the 135th Space Shuttle mission, a number that includes the two mission tragedies that saw the deaths of 14 astronauts and destruction of two vehicles.

Here is the official live NASA video of the landing:

 
* * * *
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left their lunar landing module and set foot on the Moon 47 years ago today.

* * * *
Robert Burns died on this date in 1796. Alan Shepard died 18 years ago today. Alexander Cockburn died on this date in 2012. E. L. Doctorow died on this date last year. Theodore Bikel died on this date last year.

* * * *
Ernest Hemingway was born on this date in 1899. Diana Trilling was born 111 years ago today. Marshall McLuhan was born in 1911 on this date. Isaac Stern was born on this date in 1920. Don Knotts was born on this date in 1924. John Gardner was born in 1933 on this date. Edward Herrmann was born on this date in 1943. Senator Paul Wellstone was born 71 years ago today. Robin Williams was born on this date in 1951.

* * * *
Janet Reno is 78. Yusuf / Cat Stevens is 68. “Peace Train” from 1976:

 
Garry Trudeau is 68. Jon Lovitz is 59. Ike Eisenmann is 54. CC Sabathia is 36.

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