Space shuttle Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday, concluding the final mission of its 25-year career.
Fresh off a 12-day mission to the international space station, the shuttle landed as scheduled at 8:48 a.m. ET to end its 32nd flight.
After 25 years and 120 million miles of spaceflight, NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis has flown its final planned mission with life as a museum exhibit ahead in its future. But the space plane is leaving an impressive legacy in its wake.
Atlantis returned to Earth Wednesday with a smooth landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida that capped a 12-day trek to the International Space Station. NASA is retiring the space shuttles this year, with just two more flights remaining after this one.
“We’re going to call it a mission. It was a lot of fun,” Atlantis commander Kenneth Ham told Mission Control after landing.
Just hours before landing, the lifetime odometer on Atlantis passed the 120 million-mile (194 million-km) mark after 32 missions – a milestone that awed the shuttle’s six-man crew.
As of this morning, Atlantis has orbited the Earth at least 186 times on this current mission. That seems like a lot, but in the shuttle’s 31 earlier missions, it racked up 4,462 laps around its home planet. So with Atlantis’ Wednesday landing, it has circled the planet 4,648 times.
Atlantis zoomed through space at about 17,500 mph (28,163 kph) and completed a single orbit once every 90 minutes white it was in orbit.
President Obama has called for a new strategy that ends current programs while funding new initiatives intended to propel humankind farther into the solar system.
In an April speech, Obama outlined his proposal to pump an additional $6 billion into NASA’s budget over the next five years while halting a project to resume lunar missions.