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Welcome Home, Atlantis

A smooth end to a sometimes turbulent career for the shuttle program:
The space shuttle Atlantis glided home through a clear moonlit sky on Thursday to complete a 13-day cargo run to the International Space Station and a 30-year odyssey for NASA's shuttle program.

Commander Chris Ferguson gently steered the 100-tonne spaceship high overhead, then nose-dived toward the swamp-surrounded landing strip at the Kennedy Space Center, a few miles (kilometers) from where Atlantis will go on display as a museum piece.

Double sonic booms shattered the predawn silence around the space center, the last time residents will hear the distinctive sound of a shuttle coming home.

Ferguson eased Atlantis onto the runway at 5:57 a.m. EDT, ending a 5.2 million-mile (8.4 million-km) journey and closing a key chapter in human space flight history.

"Mission complete, Houston," Ferguson radioed to Mission Control.
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Photo: Steve Nesius/Reuters