Space shuttle Endeavour makes final touch-down

The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six landed at Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, early today.

The touchdown ended a 16-day mission which was the penultimate one in the shuttle programme.

Endeavour's crew put the finishing touches on the International Space Station.

Commander Mark Kelly must wait another day before being reunited with his wife. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering at a rehabilitation centre in Houston after being shot in the head in January.

The last shuttle to fly, Atlantis, was almost at the launch pad when Endeavour returned.

Atlantis emerged from the hangar late yesterday as thousands of space centre workers and their families lined the route to the pad. Atlantis is due to launch in July.

"122 million miles flown during 25 challenging spaceflights," Mission Control told Kelly and his crew. "Your landing ends a vibrant legacy for this amazing vehicle that will long be remembered. Welcome home, Endeavour."

Kelly replied: "It's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy."

He thanked all those who worked on Endeavour over the years.

A considerably bigger crowd gathered a few hours earlier to see Atlantis make its way to the launch pad, the last such trek ever by a shuttle. Thousands of workers and their families lined the route as Atlantis crept out of the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building a little after sunset, bathed in xenon lights.

"The show pretty much tells itself," Atlantis's commander, Christopher Ferguson, said as he waved towards his craft. "We're going to look upon this final mission as a celebration of all that the space shuttle has accomplished over its 30-year life span."

Bright lights also illuminated the landing strip for Kelly and his crew, who made the 25th night landing out of a total of 134 shuttle flights.

The Endeavour astronauts - all experienced spacemen - departed the 220-mile-high outpost over the weekend, after adding the finishing touches. They installed a 2 billion dollar cosmic ray detector, an extension beam and a platform full of spare parts - enough to keep the station operating in the shuttle-less decade ahead.

Their flight lasted 16 days and completed Nasa's role in the space station construction effort which began 12 years ago.

The official tally for Nasa's youngest shuttle after 25 flights, nearly half of them to the space station: 122.8 million miles, 170 crew members, 299 days in space and 4,672 orbits of Earth.

Ms Giffords was shot in the head during a mass shooting in January, but made a remarkable recovery and was able to watch the launch on May 16. She did not travel to Florida for the landing because of the inconvenient time, her husband said. They will be reunited in Houston tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion this leading designer and sup...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a friendly, confident i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Primary Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: At Tradewind Recruitment we are currently l...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee