STS-135, Space Shuttle Atlantis, has returned safely to Earth. So concludes the one hundred and thirty-fifth Space Shuttle mission, the last ever of the program.
Space Shuttle Atlantis landing
Even though the wheels of the shuttle have touched down on the tarmac in Florida, the mission is hardly over. The shuttle will spend the next several months in an Orbiter Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo maintenance before, well, staying at Kennedy Space Center forever—on display instead of gearing up for another mission into space.
Florida is a great place to retire. Watch the glorious time lapse video below for a glimpse of the storied careers of three shuttle missions.
Segment 1: NASA's Shuttle Discovery (STS131), while docked to the ISS, captured these images on April 12, 2010 as it moved from the night side of the Earth to the daytime. In the process the Aurora Borealis can be seen on the Earth's limb. A solar panel from the ISS and a docked Soyuz module can be seen in the foreground.
Segment 2: NASA's Shuttle Discovery (STS131), while docked to the ISS, captured these images on April 16, 2010. The sequence begins as the Shuttle emerges from darkness over the Canadian Rockies, traversing the United States southeast towards Florida. The Bahamas and Hispaniola are seen as the Shuttle continues over Venzuela, Brazil and finally the southern Atlantic ocean before returning to darkness.
Segment 3: The Sun rises behind space shuttle Atlantis in this time-lapse sequence from July 19, 2011, one of the last days of the historic final mission of the shuttle program.