Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns For Last Time?

Space shuttle Atlantis is back on earth and its flying career may be over. As Rod Rice reports NASA officials gave the craft high praise for its years of service.

Shuttle Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses said that this mission was nearly flawless and so too has been the life of Atlantis.

"The folks who built it, all the missions it's flown over its career have been just amazing, so I can't even begin to talk about how proud I am of Atlantis and the whole team who put it together."

The space agency would like Atlantis to return to the International Space Station next June, but there may be no money to do that. For the moment there are only two remaining shuttle flights this year and then the shuttle program ends.

Associate NASA Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier says while others speculate on extending shuttle flights, those in the program must stay focused on the remaining two missions.

"We've got a pretty stable plan.  We're going to make small modifications to that plan where it makes sense, but we're really going to focus on the two remaining flights that are for sure and make sure we're really got those executed the best we can and then we'll see what happens on this last one."

Shuttle Launch Director Bill Leinbach said while he's not happy about the gap between the end of the shuttle program and what comes next it's all about the amount of money for manned space flight.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...