Launch of final Space Shuttle, Atlantis

07/08/11 wire reports including AP
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The final space shuttle blasted off this morning from the Kennedy Space Center.

Four astronauts are riding Atlantis to orbit. The shuttle is bound for the International Space Station, making one final supply run.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators jammed Cape Canaveral and surrounding towns for the farewell. Kennedy Space Center itself was packed with shuttle workers, astronauts and 45,000 invited guests, the maximum allowed.

The first shuttle launched in 1981.

Florida’s senior U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said the end of the space shuttle program “signals the start of a new era in American space travel.”

Nelson, a former astronaut, flew on the shuttle Columbia in 1986 as a payload specialist.

The Atlantis flight will last 12 days. Weather permitting, Atlantis will return to Kennedy, where it will end up on permanent display.

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