Atlantis was the fourth space shuttle built and the final one to fly, taking food and other supplies to the International Space Station before touching down on Earth in the early hours of July 21, 2011. That 135th touchdown brought the 30-year-long space shuttle era to a close.
"Although we got to take the ride," said commander Chris Ferguson after the landing, "we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied, or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us."
Visitors to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer will get a chance to join the list of admirers with a close-up look at the unwrapped Atlantis, complete with reentry scars.
Photograph courtesy Kim Shiflett, NASA
The palette of pandemonium colors an interstellar cloud red, blue, and black as stars form within.
This image, captured by a telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory at the fringe of Chile's Atacama Desert, shows a cloud of mostly hydrogen gas glowing red as electrons, freed by blasts of intense energy, recombine with the atoms. The blue area at right is reflected starlight bouncing off particles of dust. The dark splotches are regions where the dust is too thick for light to penetrate.
Image courtesy ESO
A plume of water vapor and ice spurts from cracks at the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus at a rate of about 200 pounds (100 kilograms) per second, hinting at a subsurface sea.
Observing the plasma, or hot ionized gas, spurting from these same openings may lead to insights about how sunlight and plasma interact to influence magnetic fields.
The face of the moon is illuminated by light reflected off Saturn in this April 29 photo captured from 483,000 miles (777,000 kilometers) away by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Image courtesy Caltech/SSI/NASA
A thin shell of red gas is all that remains after a supernova explosion that occurred about six centuries ago. This wispy red veil was emitted by a former white dwarf, an older star that burned up all of its hydrogen and collapsed into itself.
This ball of gas appears in the constellation Dorado, which also contains the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy that orbits the Milky Way.
Sending up to a billion tons (900 million metric tons) of solar particles into space at over a million miles per hour (1.6 million kilometers per hour), these bursts of solar wind can cause significant disruptions to communication satellites orbiting Earth.
This image shows a loop arching away from the sun on May 1. The event took just a couple of hours from start to finish. See a video of it here.