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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
In Pictures: The space shuttle

Space shuttle Columbia launches from Cape Canaveral. Image: Nasa.

The US space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral on its maiden flight. On 12 April 1981, Columbia launched on a two-day mission into low-Earth orbit.

Stephen Robinson on the Canadarm. Image: Nasa.

Astronaut Stephen Robinson perches on the end of Canadarm - a mechanical arm to move equipment from the shuttle's cargo bay - during 2005's Return to Flight mission.

Space shuttle Atlantis aboard its carrier aircraft (SCA). Image: Nasa.

The space shuttle Atlantis rides piggyback atop its carrier aircraft (a modified Boeing 747) as it is flown across the US to its "home" - Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Hubble space telescope lifted from shuttle. Image: Nasa.

The Hubble Space Telescope is unberthed and lifted into space by the shuttle's robotic arm during the orbiting observatory's second servicing mission in 1997.

Challenger explosion. Image: Nasa.

Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch on 28 January 1986, killing all seven crew. The cause of the disaster was traced to a faulty rocket booster seal.

Shuttle Atlantis docked to Mir. Image: Nasa.

This view of space shuttle Atlantis docked to Russia's Mir Space Station was taken by cosmonauts who flew round the outpost in their Soyuz casule.

John Glenn on STS-95 shuttle mission. Image: Nasa.

In 1998, Senator John Glenn flew aboard the space shuttle 36 years after he became the first American to orbit Earth. He carried out investigations into the ageing process.

Bruce McCandless in jet pack. Image: Nasa.

Astronaut Bruce McCandless uses a nitrogen-propelled jet pack to venture from his ship. McCandless went "free-flying" to a distance of 320ft from the shuttle in 1984.

STS-107 crew. Image: Nasa.

The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it returned to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts. This image of the crew was on a roll of film recovered from the debris.

Space shuttle Endeavour lands at Kennedy Space Center. Image: Nasa.

Space shuttle Endeavour lands at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in 2007. Nasa plans to retire its remaining three shuttles by 2010 to make way for a new vehicle.

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