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Era of the shuttle

<p>The sun sets as Space Shuttle Columbia sits on Launch Pad A (LC-39A) at Cape Canaveral, February 19, 1981. Columbia launched on April 12, 1981, the first orbital flight of the space shuttle program.  

REUTERS/NASA</p>

The sun sets as Space Shuttle Columbia sits on Launch Pad A (LC-39A) at Cape Canaveral, February 19, 1981. Columbia launched on April 12, 1981, the first orbital flight of the space shuttle program. REUTERS/NASA

The sun sets as Space Shuttle Columbia sits on Launch Pad A (LC-39A) at Cape Canaveral, February 19, 1981. Columbia launched on April 12, 1981, the first orbital flight of the space shuttle program. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The Space Shuttle Columbia rests on Rogers Dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base after landing to complete its first orbital mission (STS-1), April 14, 1981.

REUTERS/NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center</p>

The Space Shuttle Columbia rests on Rogers Dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base after landing to complete its first orbital mission (STS-1), April 14, 1981. REUTERS/NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center

The Space Shuttle Columbia rests on Rogers Dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base after landing to complete its first orbital mission (STS-1), April 14, 1981. REUTERS/NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center

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<p>Astronaut Dale Gardner, having just completed the major portion of his second extravehicular activity (EVA) period in three days, holds up a "For Sale" sign referring to the two satellites, Palapa B-2 and Westar 6 that they retrieved from orbit after their Payload Assist Modules (PAM) failed to fire, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, November 14, 1984. Astronaut Joseph P. Allen IV, who also participated in the two EVAs, is reflected in Gardner's helmet visor. A portion of each of two recovered satellites is in the lower right corner, with Westar 6 nearer Discovery's aft. 

REUTERS/NASA </p>

Astronaut Dale Gardner, having just completed the major portion of his second extravehicular activity (EVA) period in three days, holds up a "For Sale" sign referring to the two satellites, Palapa B-2 and Westar 6 that they retrieved from orbit after...more

Astronaut Dale Gardner, having just completed the major portion of his second extravehicular activity (EVA) period in three days, holds up a "For Sale" sign referring to the two satellites, Palapa B-2 and Westar 6 that they retrieved from orbit after their Payload Assist Modules (PAM) failed to fire, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, November 14, 1984. Astronaut Joseph P. Allen IV, who also participated in the two EVAs, is reflected in Gardner's helmet visor. A portion of each of two recovered satellites is in the lower right corner, with Westar 6 nearer Discovery's aft. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The Space Shuttle Challenger and her seven-member crew were lost when a ruptured O-ring in the right Solid Rocket Booster caused an explosion soon after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, January 28, 1986. This photograph, taken a few seconds after the accident, shows the Space Shuttle Main Engines and Solid Rocket Booster exhaust plumes entwined around a ball of gas from the External Tank. 

REUTERS/NASA</p>

The Space Shuttle Challenger and her seven-member crew were lost when a ruptured O-ring in the right Solid Rocket Booster caused an explosion soon after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, January 28, 1986. This photograph, taken a few seconds...more

The Space Shuttle Challenger and her seven-member crew were lost when a ruptured O-ring in the right Solid Rocket Booster caused an explosion soon after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, January 28, 1986. This photograph, taken a few seconds after the accident, shows the Space Shuttle Main Engines and Solid Rocket Booster exhaust plumes entwined around a ball of gas from the External Tank. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2, participates in the mission's third session of extravehicular activity (EVA), August 3, 2005. 

REUTERS/NASA</p>

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2, participates in the mission's third session of extravehicular activity (EVA), August 3, 2005. REUTERS/NASA more

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2, participates in the mission's third session of extravehicular activity (EVA), August 3, 2005. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>A girl takes a wave as space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006.   


REUTERS/Carlos Barria  </p>

A girl takes a wave as space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A girl takes a wave as space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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<p>The space shuttle Discovery heads into space as it blasts off for Mission STS-121 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006. 

REUTERS/Scott Audette </p>

The space shuttle Discovery heads into space as it blasts off for Mission STS-121 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006. REUTERS/Scott Audette

The space shuttle Discovery heads into space as it blasts off for Mission STS-121 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 4, 2006. REUTERS/Scott Audette

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<p>Spacewalker James Reilly with the Earth's horizon in the background during a spacewalk, June 11, 2007. 


REUTERS/NASA</p>

Spacewalker James Reilly with the Earth's horizon in the background during a spacewalk, June 11, 2007. REUTERS/NASA

Spacewalker James Reilly with the Earth's horizon in the background during a spacewalk, June 11, 2007. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The space shuttle Discovery is reflected in a nearby lagoon on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, March 11, 2009. 


REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme </p>

The space shuttle Discovery is reflected in a nearby lagoon on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme

The space shuttle Discovery is reflected in a nearby lagoon on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme

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<p>The Space Shuttle Endeavour as photographed by an Expedition 20 crew member during a survey of the approaching vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. 

REUTERS/NASA</p>

The Space Shuttle Endeavour as photographed by an Expedition 20 crew member during a survey of the approaching vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

The Space Shuttle Endeavour as photographed by an Expedition 20 crew member during a survey of the approaching vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>A view of the sun as it rises above the earth, in this NASA handout photo taken from the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. 

 REUTERS/NASA</p>

A view of the sun as it rises above the earth, in this NASA handout photo taken from the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

A view of the sun as it rises above the earth, in this NASA handout photo taken from the International Space Station, July 17, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The space shuttle Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 31, 2009.    

REUTERS/Stan Honda/Pool</p>

The space shuttle Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Stan Honda/Pool

The space shuttle Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Stan Honda/Pool

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<p>The space shuttle Discovery rolls out to Launch Pad 39A as lightning strikes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, August 4, 2009. 


REUTERS/NASA</p>

The space shuttle Discovery rolls out to Launch Pad 39A as lightning strikes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, August 4, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

The space shuttle Discovery rolls out to Launch Pad 39A as lightning strikes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, August 4, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Earth is seen behind Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation, September 8, 2009.  

REUTERS/NASA</p>

Earth is seen behind Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation, September 8, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

Earth is seen behind Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation, September 8, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Astronaut Robert L. Satcher Jr. works outside the International Space Station as he participates in Space Shuttle Atlantis' first spacewalk of mission STS-129, November 19, 2009.

REUTERS/NASA</p>

Astronaut Robert L. Satcher Jr. works outside the International Space Station as he participates in Space Shuttle Atlantis' first spacewalk of mission STS-129, November 19, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

Astronaut Robert L. Satcher Jr. works outside the International Space Station as he participates in Space Shuttle Atlantis' first spacewalk of mission STS-129, November 19, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The bright sun greets the International Space Station in a photo taken from the Russian section of the orbital outpost by one of the STS-129 crew members, November 22, 2009.   

REUTERS/NASA </p>

The bright sun greets the International Space Station in a photo taken from the Russian section of the orbital outpost by one of the STS-129 crew members, November 22, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

The bright sun greets the International Space Station in a photo taken from the Russian section of the orbital outpost by one of the STS-129 crew members, November 22, 2009. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The space shuttle Endeavour silhouetted against the backdrop of Earth's horizon, February 9, 2010.   REUTERS/NASA </p>

The space shuttle Endeavour silhouetted against the backdrop of Earth's horizon, February 9, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

The space shuttle Endeavour silhouetted against the backdrop of Earth's horizon, February 9, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Spacewalker Robert Behnken works outside the International Space Station during Space Shuttle Discovery's second  EVA (extravehicular activity), February 14, 2010.   

REUTERS/NASA</p>

Spacewalker Robert Behnken works outside the International Space Station during Space Shuttle Discovery's second EVA (extravehicular activity), February 14, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

Spacewalker Robert Behnken works outside the International Space Station during Space Shuttle Discovery's second EVA (extravehicular activity), February 14, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The space shuttle Endeavour returns to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, February 21, 2010. 

REUTERS/Craig Rubadoux/Pool </p>

The space shuttle Endeavour returns to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, February 21, 2010. REUTERS/Craig Rubadoux/Pool

The space shuttle Endeavour returns to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, February 21, 2010. REUTERS/Craig Rubadoux/Pool

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<p>The smoke trail from the launch of the space shuttle Discovery STS-131 is illuminated by the rising sun at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette   </p>

The smoke trail from the launch of the space shuttle Discovery STS-131 is illuminated by the rising sun at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette

The smoke trail from the launch of the space shuttle Discovery STS-131 is illuminated by the rising sun at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette

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<p>The Space Shuttle Atlantis backdropped against the Andes Mountains near the border of Argentina and Chile prior to docking with the International Space Station, May 16, 2010. 

REUTERS/NASA</p>

The Space Shuttle Atlantis backdropped against the Andes Mountains near the border of Argentina and Chile prior to docking with the International Space Station, May 16, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

The Space Shuttle Atlantis backdropped against the Andes Mountains near the border of Argentina and Chile prior to docking with the International Space Station, May 16, 2010. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Photographers gather to cover space shuttle Discovery as it sits on launch pad 39A after making the trip from the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette   </p>

Photographers gather to cover space shuttle Discovery as it sits on launch pad 39A after making the trip from the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Photographers gather to cover space shuttle Discovery as it sits on launch pad 39A after making the trip from the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Scott Audette

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<p>The space shuttle Discovery with the northern Atlantic ocean in the background, March 7, 2011.


REUTERS/NASA</p>

The space shuttle Discovery with the northern Atlantic ocean in the background, March 7, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

The space shuttle Discovery with the northern Atlantic ocean in the background, March 7, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. 


REUTERS/NASA</p>

The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>People watch as the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. 

REUTERS/Hans Deryk </p>

People watch as the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

People watch as the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

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<p>The space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it separates from the external fuel tank shortly after launch in this handout image from NASA TV July 8, 2011.    REUTERS/NASA TV/Handout</p>

The space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it separates from the external fuel tank shortly after launch in this handout image from NASA TV July 8, 2011. REUTERS/NASA TV/Handout

The space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it separates from the external fuel tank shortly after launch in this handout image from NASA TV July 8, 2011. REUTERS/NASA TV/Handout

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<p>Spectators line the A.Max Brewer bridge in anticipation of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in Titusville, Florida, July 8, 2011. 

REUTERS/Hans Deryk  </p>

Spectators line the A.Max Brewer bridge in anticipation of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in Titusville, Florida, July 8, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

Spectators line the A.Max Brewer bridge in anticipation of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in Titusville, Florida, July 8, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

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<p>Space shuttle Atlantis is pictured while still docked with the International Space Station, July 18, 2011. 

REUTERS/NASA</p>

Space shuttle Atlantis is pictured while still docked with the International Space Station, July 18, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

Space shuttle Atlantis is pictured while still docked with the International Space Station, July 18, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>Spacewalker Ron Garan rides on the International Space Station's robotic arm with the Earth as a backdrop as he transfers a failed pump module to the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis during the final spacewalk, July 12, 2011.    REUTERS/NASA</p>

Spacewalker Ron Garan rides on the International Space Station's robotic arm with the Earth as a backdrop as he transfers a failed pump module to the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis during the final spacewalk, July 12, 2011. REUTERS/NASA more

Spacewalker Ron Garan rides on the International Space Station's robotic arm with the Earth as a backdrop as he transfers a failed pump module to the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis during the final spacewalk, July 12, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

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<p>A 400 millimeter lens was used by an International space station crew member to capture this image of the space shuttle Atlantis as it drew close to the station for docking,  July 10, 2011.    REUTERS/NASA</p>

A 400 millimeter lens was used by an International space station crew member to capture this image of the space shuttle Atlantis as it drew close to the station for docking, July 10, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

A 400 millimeter lens was used by an International space station crew member to capture this image of the space shuttle Atlantis as it drew close to the station for docking, July 10, 2011. REUTERS/NASA

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