"final mission" shows the very last launch of a U.S. space shuttle. Atlantis STS-135 was the 135th and final mission of the American Space Shuttle Program, the U.S. government's NASA-administered manned launch vehicle program which ran from 1981 to 2011. The Space Shuttle system – composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank – carried up to eight astronauts and up to 23,000 kg of payload into low Earth orbit. Its mission completed, the orbiter re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and landed like a glider at Kennedy Space Center.
The ultimate voyage on July 8, 2011, this ultimate voyage marked the last chapter in NASA’s thirty-year history of space flight whilst at the same time opening a new era of commercial space travel. The historical event was photographed by Michael Najjar on location at Cape Canaveral. In combining the triple phases of the thunderous liftoff, the artwork captures the incredible energy needed to boost the vehicle and its crew and cargo out of Earth’s gravity to the International Space Station (ISS).