<p><strong>The <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperations/orbiters/orbitersend.html">space shuttle <em>Endeavour</em></a>'s extinguished main engines glow as the <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html">NASA</a> craft glides toward a landing in <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/united-states/florida-guide/">Florida</a> on <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/home/index.html">Kennedy Space Center</a>'s Runway 15 on January 20, 1996.</strong></p><p><em>Endeavour</em> launched into its 25th and final voyage Monday—also the anniversary of the space shuttle's first landing on May 16, 1992. The shuttle flight will be the second-to-last flight for the U.S. space agency's 30-year space shuttle program. <em>Atlantis</em> is set to make the final <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/space-exploration/space-shuttle-program.html">space shuttle</a> flight in June.</p><p>Commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly, the final <em>Endeavour</em> mission's six-member crew are carrying several items to the <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/space-exploration/international-space-station-article.html">International Space Station</a>, including the two-billion-U.S.-dollar dark matter hunting satellite Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. (See <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110429-shuttle-launch-endeavour-ams-space-science-nation/">"Space Shuttle Launch to Put Giant Ray Detector in Space."</a>)</p><p>"It's the premier physics experiment; it's probably the most expensive thing ever flown by the space shuttle," Kelly said in a NASA statement.<br>(See a <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/28/space-shuttle-endeavour-weathers-stormy-skies/">picture of space shuttle <em>Endeavour</em></a> backlighted by lightning.)</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p>

A Shuttle Touches Down

The space shuttle Endeavour's extinguished main engines glow as the NASA craft glides toward a landing in Florida on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 on January 20, 1996.

Endeavour launched into its 25th and final voyage Monday—also the anniversary of the space shuttle's first landing on May 16, 1992. The shuttle flight will be the second-to-last flight for the U.S. space agency's 30-year space shuttle program. Atlantis is set to make the final space shuttle flight in June.

Commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly, the final Endeavour mission's six-member crew are carrying several items to the International Space Station, including the two-billion-U.S.-dollar dark matter hunting satellite Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. (See "Space Shuttle Launch to Put Giant Ray Detector in Space.")

"It's the premier physics experiment; it's probably the most expensive thing ever flown by the space shuttle," Kelly said in a NASA statement.
(See a picture of space shuttle Endeavour backlighted by lightning.)

—Ker Than

Photograph from NASA/AP

Space Shuttle Pictures: 12 Endeavour Images to Remember

Now that NASA's Endeavour has launched for the last time, see the space shuttle in a 12-picture retrospective of the craft's career.

Read This Next

Clothing from 1600s shipwreck shows how the 1 percent lived
A Q&A with Nikole Hannah-Jones on ‘The 1619 Project’

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet