CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (July 8, 11:45 a.m. ET) — Space shuttle Atlantis took off today on the shuttle program's final mission, NASA said.
The launch at 11.26 a.m. EDT marks the end of the 30-year space-shuttle program.
The first shuttle launch was in April 1981 when Columbia took its first flight. The four other crafts that helped complete the shuttle's 134 missions were Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.
The shuttles use specially developed polyurethane foam to protect and insulate their external fuel tanks. NASA created a special blend of polyols that would create a foam with incredible strength, insulation, durability and lightweight properties. The polyurethane foam's reaction with air gives the fuel tank its distinctive orange color.
Commander Chris Ferguson and his three crewmates are scheduled to complete a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.