As Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Centre, it marked the end of NASA’s three decade space shuttle programme.
The spacecraft made a perfect re-entry and landing bathed in moonlight.
The final 13-day mission involved Atlantis carrying supplies and equipment to the International Space Station Alpha.
The crew of commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim disembarked to much emotion, as it dawned that never again will a space shuttle shatter the silence around the Kennedy Space Centre.
Back on terra firma commander Chris Ferguson spoke to those gathered on the tarmac: “We are going to put Atlantis in a museum now, along with the other orbiters for generations that will come after us to admire and appreciate. I want that picture of a young six-year-old boy looking up at a shuttle in the museum and say “Daddy I want to do something like that when I grow up.”
During 30 years of service the shuttle fleet transported 355 astronauts on a total of 135 missions.
Atlantis has impressive career statistics – 33 flights, 307 days in space, 4,848 orbits, travelling a total distance of 202,673,974 kilometres.