Astronauts aboard the space-shuttle Atlantis landed just before 6am EST on Thursday, marking not only the end of the flight but end of NASA's 30-year shuttle program.

The space shuttle changed the way we view the world, the way we view the universe, Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson said soon after landing. America's not going to stop exploring. Thanks for protecting us and bringing this program to a fitting end.

The final trip carried a year's worth of supplies - more than 3,600 kilograms - for the International Space Station. It also brought up a system that will be used by Canada's Dextre robot to test a system for refueling and repairing spacecraft and satellites in space.

Atlantis spent 13 days in orbit, adding one extra day to the original plan before retiring the shuttle and the mission for good.

NASA is winding down its space shuttle operations this summer as it tries to save money, which will leave American and European astronauts with only Russian rockets as options for going into space.

In February, the space shuttle Discovery, NASA's oldest and most travelled spacecraft, made its final voyage into space. Endeavour flew its final mission to the ISS last May.

The country is focusing on inspiring 3rd part companies to put astronauts in orbit using privately run launch, transport and services companies.

NASA will now focus its resources on deep space exploration, such as potential landings on asteroids and, eventually, Mars.

Following its return, Atlantis will go on display at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The two other retired shuttles are heading to museums in Los Angeles and Virginia.