Atlantis made the final landing at the International Space Station on Sunday after two days into its final voyage.
At 12:47 p.m. EDT, hatches were opened between the International Space Station and space shuttle Atlantis, beginning the joint phase of the STS-135 mission and marking the final docking at the space station by a NASA shuttle.
Associated Press reported that this would be the 46th docking by a space shuttle to a space station. Nine of those were to Russia’s Mir station back in the mid-1990s, with Atlantis making the very first.
The final flight of the shuttle program, STS-135, is a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. Atlantis is carrying four astronauts that include Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Atlantis is also carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station.
The space shuttle will be retired after its mission is complete, ending the final flight of the 30-year program. The Associated Press reported that NASA is getting out of the launching-to-orbit business, giving Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery to museums, so it can start working on human trips to asteroids and Mars. Private U.S. companies will pick up the more mundane job of space station delivery runs and, still several years out, astronaut ferry flights.