The end of an era as last shuttle lands

The last ever space shuttle flight ended safely early this morning, bringing to an end a thirty-year career that included the delivery of the Hubble Space Telescope and the building of the International Space Station.

“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,” announced mission controller Rob Navias.

Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5.56 am after a 13-day mission to the International Space Station. It carried four astronauts: commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re going to to walk off Atlantis,” Commander Chris Ferguson radioed from the spacecraft as he completed shutdown checks.

The mission delivered more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies – including 2,677 pounds of food – that should keep the space station going for another year. It also brought back nearly 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station.

In future, the ISS will be kept supplied by Russian Soyuz spaceships as well as – possibly – ships from commercial companies such as SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Since the first shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, 355 people from 16 countries made a total of 852 journeys aboard. Between them, the five shuttles traveled more than 542 million miles and hosted more than 2,000 experiments.

STS-135 was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled 125,935,769 miles. It will now be put on display at the Kennedy Space Center.