Shuttle Atlantis making last journey home
Jul 21, 2011, 8:56 GMT
Handout image from NASA T.V. released 11 July 2011 showing space shuttle Atlantis and its payload was provided by o EPA/NASA T.V.
Washington - The Atlantis is making its final return to Earth, marking the end of the space shuttle era when its wheels touch down Thursday morning in Florida.
Atlantis fired its engines at 0849 GMT to slow the craft down to 358 kilometres per hour to allow it to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. The weather at the Kennedy Space Centre was clear for landing and NASA engineers said there were no apparent problems with the craft itself.
The shuttle is making the final flight for NASA's 30-year-old fleet of reusable spacecraft before the programme is retired.
Atlantis brought more than 4 metric tons of cargo and spare parts to outfit the International Space Station for a year. The shuttle is the only spacecraft big enough to haul such heavy loads, though Russian, European and Japanese craft can still fly smaller, lighter cargo to the station.
The shuttle is due to land at 0957 GMT at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida after a 13-day mission. In case of poor weather, it can also land at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Atlantis and the other remaining orbiters - Discovery, Endeavour and the test vehicle Enterprise - will be outfitted for display in museums.
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