Atlantis lands, ending 30-year space shuttle program

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Space shuttle Atlantis zoomed back toward Earth on Thursday to make the very last landing of the 30-year program.

Atlantis’ crew of four fired the braking rockets in the wee hours of the morning. That set them on a course toward an on-time touchdown just before dawn at 5:56 a.m., one last shuttle touchdown for the history books.

“The weather couldn’t be better,” Mission Control assured shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson.

NASA is ending its shuttle program with Atlantis’ successful space station resupply mission. It is the 135th flight in shuttle history. This grand finale comes 50 years to the day that Gus Grissom became the second American in space, aboard Liberty Bell 7.

Hundreds were gathering at NASA’s landing strip to welcome Atlantis home.