Space Shuttle Comes to Final Stop After 30 Years as presented by: Sacramento Bee

Atlantis and four astronauts returned from the International Space Station in triumph Thursday, bringing an end to NASA's 30-year shuttle journey with one last, rousing touchdown that drew cheers and tears. Thousands gathered near the landing strip and packed Kennedy Space Center, and countless others watched from afar, as NASA's longest-running spaceflight program came to a close. With the space shuttles retiring to museums, it will be another three to five years at best before Americans are launched again from U.S. soil, as private companies gear up to seize the Earth-to-orbit-and-back baton from NASA. This image provided by NASA shows the space shuttle Atlantis photographed from the International Space Station as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed final separation of a space shuttle in the early hours of Tuesday July 19, 2011. Space shuttle Atlantis is towed to the Orbitor Processing facility for decommissioning at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, July 21, 2011. The landing of Atlantis marks the end of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program. Commander Chris Ferguson walks under space shuttle Atlantis after landing at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Thursday, July 21, 2011.

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