Photos: When the First Shuttle Launched and Landed

The last Shuttle mission launched a few minutes ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After the reusable spaceship returns to Earth, it'll be retired and Americans will have to hitch a ride on the Soviet Soyuz craft to reach the International Space Station or any other destination in orbit.

As the Shuttle program comes to a close, we want to return to its beginning, the launch of STS-1, the first official mission of this era. Commanded by John Young and piloted by Robert Crippen, the craft launched on April 12, 1981. Here are some photos from the NASA archives of the preparation, launch, mission, and return.

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