The spacecraft will enter history as the most complex, as well as the most expensive flying machine designed by man.
The spaceship had 2.5 million parts and was nine times faster than a bullet. It was the first reusable spacecraft capable of gliding back to Earth like an airplane.
“It was leading-edge stuff back then,” NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry says. “It was seen as a major leap forward.”
Other manned spacecraft were unable to fly back to Earth. They were ballistic missiles that landed in the sea or used thrusters and parachutes to control their landing on Earth.
The space program will end next month, after three decades and 135 voyages when the Atlantis shuttle will return from the mission scheduled to launch on 8 July from the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA donates spacecraft to museums as they are too old and expensive to continue flying and the space agency plans to build new vehicles that are more efficient.