The End Of The Space Shuttle EraNASA's space shuttle program spanned 30 years of launches and more than 100 missions. It was responsible for the construction of space stations, the deployment of satellites and telescopes and furthering the understanding of space science.
The space shuttle Discovery is loaded onto the back of a modified 747 at Kennedy Space Center on April 15. The plane will ferry the shuttle to Washington, D.C., on April 17, where it will be permanently installed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Every space shuttle mission had its own mission emblem, designed and worn by the crews. Centered in this photo are the embroidered patches for the first and last missions, STS-1 and STS-135. The STS-1 emblem is a rare version, produced only for the astronauts and NASA employees. The souvenir edition was slightly different.
Atlantis lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on its final flight on July 8. There are plans for a next-generation space vehicle, but some space experts aren't sure if the vehicle will ever be completed.
Tony Gray and Tom Farrar/NASA
A large section of Discovery's nose, called the forward reaction control system, which helped steer the shuttle while in orbit, was removed in March. The spacecraft will be cleaned and detoxified before being put on display in museums.
The International Space Station as seen from the space shuttle Atlantis after it undocked from the outpost in November 2009. Despite an end to the space shuttle program, NASA says scientific work is just getting into full gear on the space station.
The San Andres Mountains and pieces of construction equipment are reflected in the glass windows of Spaceport America near Upham, N.M., in May. Despite construction delays and difficult working conditions in a remote area of the desert, state officials say New Mexico is committed to seeing the project succeed.
Susan Montoya Bryan/AP
The Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise spacecraft is seen before its first public landing during the Spaceport America runway dedication ceremony near Las Cruces, N.M., on Oct. 22. Virgin Galactic is one of a handful of private companies that plan to fly paying customers into space.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images