Space shuttle Endeavour arrived on earth for the final time on Wednesday in a pre-dawn landing as NASA takes the next-to-last step to winding down its shuttle program with Atlantis arriving at the launch pad this morning and set to make its final launch on July 8.
Endeavour landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 2:34 a.m. after traveling 6.5 million miles in a 15 day mission.
The crew aboard, known as STS-134, delivered a $2 billion instrument to analyze space particles known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Commander Mark Kelly, who went into space even as his wife Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recovers from a shooting early this year in Tucson, said the new instrument meant a new day for science on the International Space Station to which it is now attached.
What a great ending to this really wonderful mission, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space operation, adding that the new instrument is providing great data aboard the station.
Meanwhile Space shuttle Atlantis mad a 3.4 mile, 7 hour move from its assembly building to its launch pad. It was secured by 3:29 a.m.
We've had a lot going on here, said Mike Moses, the space shuttle launch integration manager in a statement. Being able to send Atlantis out to the pad and then go out and land Endeavour was really a combination I never expected to have.
Endeavour undocked for the final time from the station on Sunday, 215 miles above the earth.
Endeavour was on its last mission to space after nearly 20 years in service.