After three decades of sending shuttles into orbit around Earth, Nasa has retired them to focus on building new ships that can travel farther.
Atlantis completes final space shuttle voyage
CAPE CANAVERAL // The space shuttle Atlantis glided home through a moonlit sky for its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today, completing a 30-year odyssey for Nasa's shuttle fleet.
Atlantis and its four-member crew returned from a 13-day resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) shortly before daybreak at the space centre where the ship will go on display as a museum piece.
After three decades of sending shuttles into orbit around Earth, Nasa has retired them to focus on building new ships that can travel farther into space.
The decision leaves Russia as the world's only taxi to the ISS.
"Atlantis is home, its journey complete. A moment in history to be savoured," mission control's commentator in Houston said as the white orbiter, emblazoned with an American flag, rolled to a stop.
"Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, its place in history secured, the space shuttle pulls into port for the last time, its voyage at an end."
Shuttle commander Chris Ferguson praised the thousands of people who worked on the shuttle programme since its first space flight in 1981.
"The space shuttle has changed the way we view the world, it has changed the way we view our universe," he said.
"There was a lot of emotion today but one thing is indisputable: America is not going to stop exploring.
"Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discover, Endeavour, and our ship Atlantis. Thanks for protecting us and bringing this programme to such a fitting end. God bless all of you. God bless the United States of America."