Space shuttle Atlantis makes final landing
Atlanta, July 21: Space shuttle Atlantis has landed back on Earth, bringing to a close America's 30-year orbiter programme.
The vehicle swept into the Kennedy Space Center, its wheels touching the runway just before local sunrise.
Nasa's shuttles were instrumental in building the space station, and were used to maintain the Hubble telescope.
"The space shuttle changed the way we view the world and it changed the way we view the Universe," said commander Chris Ferguson on landing.
"There's a lot of emotion today but one thing's indisputable: America's not going to stop exploring," he radioed to mission control.
Retirement of Nasa's iconic shuttle fleet was ordered by the US government, in part due to the high cost of maintaining the ships.
The decision leaves the country with no means of putting astronauts in orbit.
The US space agency's intention is to invite the private sector to provide it with space transport services, and a number of commercial ventures already have crew ships in development.
These are unlikely to be ready to fly for at least three or four years, however.
In the interim, Nasa will rely on the Russians to ferry its people to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Despite the dark skies over Florida's Space Coast, large crowds came out to try to glimpse Atlantis as it made its historic return from orbit. Two thousand people were gathered at the landing strip itself, but even in Texas, where mission control is sited, they mingled outside the gates of the Johnson Space Center.
The de-orbit track brought Atlantis across central Florida and the Titusville-Mims area before a hard bank to the left put the vehicle on a line to Runway 15 at Kennedy.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST
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