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VIDEO: Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns to Earth After Final Mission

Cape Canaveral, Fla. – In the dark, early morning hours, NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour landed for the final time today (June 1), ending its last space mission and returning to Earth for good.

Endeavour, the youngest shuttle in NASA’s orbiter fleet, touched down here at Kennedy Space Center at 2:34 a.m. EDT, wrapping up a demanding 16-day mission to the International Space Station. After travelling more than 122 million miles over the course of 25 missions, Endeavour’s wheels rolled to a stop for the final time on Runway 15 at the Florida spaceport’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

“Welcome home, Endeavour,” Mission Control radioed the shuttle crew after landing.

“Thank you, Houston,” replied Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, adding that the shuttle is “really an incredible ship.” “On behalf of my entire crew, I want to thank every person who’s worked to get this mission going and every person who’s worked on Endeavour. It’s sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy.”

The landing marked the end of NASA’s 134th shuttle mission since flights began in 1981. It was NASA’s second-to-last shuttle mission with only the final voyage of Atlantis remaining before NASA shuts down its space shuttle program after 30 years of service.

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Endeavour launched on its 25th and final mission on May 16 to deliver a $2 billion astrophysics experiment, called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and extra supplies to the International Space Station. The orbiter spent 11 days, 17 hours and 41 minutes parked at the orbiting outpost.

“We are very proud of Endeavour’s legacy, and this penultimate flight of the space shuttle program once again demonstrated the amazing skill and dedication of our astronauts and the entire workforce,” Bolden said in a statement after the shuttle landed. “As we begin the transition from the shuttle program to the commercial transportation of our crews and cargo, our ability to tackle big challenges remains steadfast and will ensure that NASA reaches even more destinations farther in the solar system.”

Shuttle commander Kelly, pilot Greg H. Johnson and mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, Mike Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Roberto Vittori delivered and installed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the exterior of the station’s starboard truss. The particle physics detector will measure high-energy cosmic rays, and search for signs of antimatter and mysterious dark matter in the universe.

“We got the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer installed, which is a remarkable thing for physics and for science,” Kelly said before Endeavour undocked from the space station. “We’re looking forward to hearing what those discoveries are.”

The crew performed four spacewalks to make upgrades to the station. The fourth and final outing marked the final spacewalk ever taken by members of a shuttle crew.

On its last trip into space, the orbiter tacked more than 6 million miles onto its odometer, bringing the shuttle’s total distance travelled to over 122 million miles. 

NASA has one final shuttle mission planned before its 30-year space shuttle program is retired for good. The STS-135 flight of Atlantis is scheduled to launch on a supply mission to the International Space Station in early July.

Earlier tonight, Atlantis made its final slow crawl to the launch pad in advance of its targeted launch on July 8. In a rare passing of two shuttles in the night, Atlantis should reach the pad about an hour after Endeavour’s landing.


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