Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven returned Friday, concluding an 11-day mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, bringing astronaut Nicole Stott back to Earth after spending 91 days in space.
The shuttle touched down as scheduled at 9:44 a.m. EST under cloudless skies, guided by the commander, Col. Charles O. Hobaugh of the Marines, and the pilot, Capt. Barry E. Wilmore of the Navy.
This was the first shuttle mission dedicated largely to stocking up the station's inventory of spare parts, and the Atlantis was designated to deliver the largest pieces, and the ones with the higher priority.
Mission specialists Mike Foreman, Robert Satcher and Randy Bresnik used three spacewalks to install two large platforms to the space station that will serve as the warehouses for the parts.
“That was a picture-perfect end to a top-fuel mission to the space station,” Capt. Christopher J. Ferguson of the Navy radioed from mission control at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, as they arrived.
“Everybody, welcome back to Earth, especially you, Nicole.”
Flight engineer Nicole Stott spent 87 days on the International Space Station. Stott was the last station crew member to travel to or from the orbiting craft aboard a space shuttle. Future crew will be transported by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The astronauts delivered nearly 15 tons of equipment and spare parts to the International Space Station to protect against failures after the shuttle fleet is retired.
All seven astronauts planned to fly back to Houston early Saturday for reunions with friends and family. Bresnik, whose wife Rebecca gave birth to the couple's second child on Saturday, looked forward to meeting his daughter for the first time.