Obama says U.S. will continue space research after shuttle program closure

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday that his country will continue space research despite the end of the Space Shuttle program.

The last ever shuttle launch was performed on Friday as Atlantis lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis’ 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is the final flight of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program.

Obama set NASA specialists the goal: to ultimately travel to Mars.

“I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars,” he said in a statement.

“I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it,” the president said.

Once the shuttle fleet is retired, Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft will take the bulk of crew rotation and cargo missions to the ISS until at least the middle of the decade. NASA is paying its Russian counterpart Roscosmos more than $1 billion for crew transport services over the next four years.

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