‘Atlantis’ Touchdown Brings Shuttle Era to a Close

Russia Poised to Take Leadership in Manned Space Travel as Final Mission of NASA’s 30-Year Program Is Completed

Arian Campo-Flores and Robert Lee Hotz
The Wall Street Journal

MIAMI—The space shuttle Atlantis touched down gently at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday morning, bringing the storied 30-year National Aeronautics and Space Administration program to an end and ceding dominion over human space travel to the Russians for now.

“Mission complete, Houston,” said commander Chris Ferguson over the radio. “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history, and it’s come to a final stop.”

It was the 135th mission of the shuttle era, which was marked by dazzling achievements, including the construction of the International Space Station, and tragic …

The rest of the article is available to subscribers of The Wall Street Journal.

At the Daily Mail, Space Shuttle Atlantis makes historic final landing as NASA’s 30-yr programme ends Atlantis lands at 5:57am local time with a record crowd watching

click on the image for a larger view

It is an image like none ever seen before and it is only fitting it should be saved for the final, historic voyage.

Astronauts at the International Space Station captured a breathtaking image of Atlantis as it made its last ever voyage back to earth. [Photograph above]

The shuttle appears like a luminous body of light shooting across the atmosphere and is pictured just as it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere – which appears like a yellow dome engulfing the earth.

Hours later, after 13 historic and momentous days, Atlantis was then towed into its hangar at the Orbiter Processing Facility several hours after it landed, ending not only its two-week mission, but a 30-year shuttle programme which has long been the pride of America.

The shuttle, which was paraded through the streets to thousands of cheering fans, was carefully locked away for the last time, signalling the end of an era.

It is the last time the shuttle will be seen by the public for a while after it made a perfect landing as dawn broke this morning, gliding down on to the tarmac at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral…

…The final landing completed the 135th mission for the fleet, which has covered an astonishing 542million miles and circled Earth 21,150 times.

Considering this accomplishment, none of the record 2,000 gathered by the landing strip to witness the historic spectacle was complaining that Atlantis was precisely one minute late.

The five shuttles have carried 355 people from 16 countries – and here were the last four astronauts safely home to cheers and tears.

As Commander Christopher Ferguson eased Atlantis on to the runway, he radioed: ‘Mission complete, Houston’.

‘Job well done, America,’ replied Mission Control…

Follow the link to the Daily Mail to read the rest of the article and to see some very impressive photos of today’s shuttle landing.

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