To infinity and beyond

Last updated 09:06 30/06/2011

SPACE JUNK: Space Shuttle Discovery astronaut Dale gardner holds up a For Sale sign - referring to the two satellites Palapa B-2 and Westra 6, retrieved from orbit after their payload assist modules failed to fire, in this Nasa handout photo dated November 14, 1984. Astronaut Joseph P Allen IV, who took the photo, is reflected in Gardner's helmet visor.

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The shuttle Atlantis is ready to fly its final mission to the International Space Station on July 8, Nasa said, ending the 30-year American space shuttle programme.

The shuttle will take off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

The final shuttle mission – known as STS-135 – is set to last 12 days, with a crew of four US astronauts on board.

After Atlantis returns to Earth, the United States shuttle programme will formally end, leaving Russia as the sole nation capable of transporting the world's astronauts into space.

Private companies are competing to build the next-generation US spacecraft, but such a vehicle is not likely to be finished before 2015.

To mark the end of an era, Nasa has re-released a series of memorable images from the programme.

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