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Robotics Refueling Mission

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Yesterday I decided to try an experiment: I solicited reader requests for news photos. I asked people on Twitter and Google+, "Would you like to see a good photo of a particular subject? A high-res version of a photo you've already seen somewhere else? A photo from a particular photographer or event? If I have access and can find it, I'll try to post it" (details). The response was great, the subject matter was varied, and the task of finding the images and composing this entry was great fun. Images ranged from massive solar flares to tiny insects, taken in places from Thailand to outer space. If you enjoy this experiment, let me know in the comments, and I may develop it into a more regular feature. To all those who made requests, thanks so much, I hope you like what I was able to find. [29 photos]

Beth Winter (@bwinter) and Spidler both asked for a higher resolution version of "Anonymous in Polish parliament". -- Lawmakers from the leftist Palikot's Movement cover their faces with masks as they protest against ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, during a parliament session, in Warsaw, Poland, on January 26, 2012, after the Polish government signed the agreement. Poland's plans to sign ACTA sparked attacks on Polish government websites and street protests in several Polish cities this week. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

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When Atlantis touched down yesterday at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the high-flying era of the space shuttles came down to earth as well. After 30 years, the shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with Colombia, has ended with the 135th mission. Atlantis delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, and retrieved a failed pump unit and other items for the return trip. Atlantis went aloft 33 times, logging over 125 million miles. The last shuttle will become a museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)
The space shuttle Atlantis flies over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011. Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the station is in the foreground. (AP Photo/NASA)

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Today marks the end of an era. Three decades of missions came to a close this morning as the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down in Florida after a 13-day trip to the International Space Station. All told, the 135 space shuttle missions have racked up more than 542 million miles in low earth orbit. Commander Chris Ferguson piloted the Atlantis to a safe landing at 5:52 a.m., and the spacecraft will soon undergo processing and decommissioning. It has been an emotional experience for residents and workers along Florida's Space Coast -- some 9,000 shuttle engineers, technicians, and other staff are being laid off, and the main tourism draw for the area has come to an end. Shown here, for one last time, is a look at a full shuttle mission, STS-135, the final flight of Atlantis. Also, be sure to see The History of the Space Shuttle, an earlier entry on In Focus. [39 photos]

A view of the space shuttle Atlantis and its payload on July 10, 2011, seen from the International Space Station. At the rear of the cargo bay is the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, packed with supplies and spare parts for the ISS. (NASA)

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