Last space shuttle comes home, ends 30-year era

Source: NASA
Source: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Space shuttle Atlantis is back on Earth, and the shuttle era is over.

Atlantis and its four astronauts glided through the twilight Thursday and landed in Florida shortly before sunrise. Hundreds gathered near the runway to welcome Atlantis home - and to bid NASA's 30-year space shuttle program goodbye.

Atlantis' successful space station restocking mission closed out the shuttle era. This was a true homecoming for Atlantis.

The next-to-youngest shuttle will remain at Kennedy Space Center and be put on display. NASA's next stop with astronauts will be an asteroid, then Mars. Private companies will take over trips to the International Space Station.

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)