It's something we may never see again: a NASA shuttle returning from to earth. When Atlantis touched down early on Thursday morning, it marked the end of more than a half century of NASA blasting astronauts into space.

American astronauts will still be ferried to the International Space Station on Russian shuttles, and private firms are getting in on the burgeoning spaceflight industry, but Atlantis still marks the end of an era. Take a look at some images of the momentous occasion: