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Atlantis' Final Journey: End of A Space Legacy (PHOTOS)
Thursday, July 21st, 2011

The space shuttle Atlantis touched down safely on a Florida runway Thursday, returning from its final 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

The orbiter brought a year's worth of supplies to the International Space Station, and returned with as much trash as possible from the station, according to the Chicago-Sun Times.

During the mission, Flight Engineers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan worked for six hours and 31 minutes outside the shuttle with the Earth spinning below them and the International Space Station docked alongside, NASA said.

Atlantis's return to Earth marks the end of NASA's current space shuttle program and the space shuttle will be retired.

The possibility that NASA may not launch another shuttle for five years brought hundreds of thousands of spectators to the areas around the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA now plans to leave routine space travel to private companies, and will rely on the Russian space program to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, reported the Los Angeles Times.  

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The space shuttle Atlantis at launch pad 39a on July 7, 2011 at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(Bill Ingalls/NASA - Courtesy)
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Kennedy Space Center employee Lisa Gorichky cries as Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off during the final space shuttle mission from the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida July 8, 2011.

(Win McNamee - Getty Images)
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NASA astronaut Rex Walheim, STS-135 mission specialist, simulates a space walk in the Virtual Reality Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center on Friday, May 13, 2011, in Houston.

(Smiley N. Pool/NASA/Houston Chronicle - Courtesy)
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NASA astronaut Rex Walheim, mission specialist, participates in a spacewalk training session in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near NASA's Johnson Space Center on Oct. 27, 2010.

(Bill Stafford/NASA - Courtesy)
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Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program.

(Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)
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NASA astronauts Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus inspect the front landing gear of the orbiter Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, April 7, 2011.

(Smiley N. Pool/NASA/Houston Chronicle - Courtesy)
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NASA astronaut Doug Hurley exits the hatch of the orbiter Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, April 7, 2011, in Florida.

(Smiley N. Pool/NASA/Houston Chronicle - Getty Images)
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NASA astronaut Doug Hurley waits in a pressure chamber before a test of his Sokol space suit at the Zvezda facility on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Moscow. The crew of the final shuttle mission traveled to Moscow for a suit fit check of their Russian Soyuz suits that will be required in the event of an emergency.

(Smiley N. Pool/NASA/Houston Chronicle - Courtesy)
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Earth's horizon, covered by the Aurora Australis is captured by one of the members of the joint Atlantis-International Space Station crews on July 14, 2011.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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The space shuttle Atlantis is seen over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011. Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft which is docked to the station is in the foreground.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus practices the use of a digital camera with a long telephoto lens at NASA's Johnson Space Center on Thursday, March 24, 2011, in Houston.

(Smiley N. Pool/NASA/Houston Chronicle - Courtesy)
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Space shuttle Atlantis mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, pilot Douglas Hurley and commander Christopher Ferguson stop and pose for photographs before heading to the launch pad for their scheduled blastoff at Kennedy Space Center July 7, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images)
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With his feet secured on a restraint on the space station astronaut Mike Fossum holds the Robotics Refueling Mission payload, which was the focus of one of the primary chores accomplished on a six and a half hour spacewalk on July 12, 2011.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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NASA astronaut Ron Garan, exits the Quest airlock on the International Space Station as he prepares to join crewmate Mike Fossum on a July 12, 2011 spacewalk.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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Astronaut Mike Fossum during a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk July 12, 2011 in space. This is the 160th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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A view of the space shuttle Atlantis through one of the windows on the International Space Station on July 18, 2011.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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Materials and computing elements being evaluated for the effects of atomic oxygen, ultraviolet, direct sunlight, radiation, and extremes of heat and cold on July 12, 2011. This experiment allows the development and testing of new materials and computing elements that can better withstand the rigors of space environments.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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With planet Earth as a backdrop, the International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation May 29, 2011 in space.

(NASA - Courtesy)
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The space shuttle Atlantis lands on July 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ending its 13-day mission. Atlantis safely touched down bringing an end to the 30-year United States space shuttle program.

(Don Emmert - AFP/Getty Images)
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