The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts are back on earth, after a smooth landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. The eleven-day flight resupplied the International Space Station and was one of the last for the shuttle program.
As Atlantis glided toward a landing in the morning sunshine, commander Charles Hobaugh commented on the favorable weather.
"Could not have picked a clearer day," he said.
Moments later, the shuttle landed on time, and Hobaugh and the other astronauts were welcomed home by Mission Control in Houston, Texas.
Astronaut Nicole Stott had been living at the International Space Station for three months. Fellow crew member Randolph Bresnik is looking forward to meeting his baby daughter, who was born last week.
This was the 129th U.S. space shuttle flight, and the 31st to the space station. It was the first mission devoted to stocking the station with spare parts. Atlantis also brought back broken equipment from the station's water-recycling system. It leaves the space station 86 percent complete.
The shuttle circled Earth 171 times on this mission, for a total of about 7.2 million kilometers.
This was Atlantis' next-to-last mission. Only five shuttle flights remain, and all will go to the space station next year.
The next shuttle flight will take place in February, when Endeavour delivers a complete cupola for watching the Earth.