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Updated: July 19, 2011 12:44 IST

Atlantis leaves space station for last time

AP
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In an image made from NASA TV, the Atlantis is docked to the Internatonal Space Station on Monday. Atlantis undocked from the ISS early Tuesday as the final space shuttle mission returns to Florida.
AP In an image made from NASA TV, the Atlantis is docked to the Internatonal Space Station on Monday. Atlantis undocked from the ISS early Tuesday as the final space shuttle mission returns to Florida.

A space shuttle has left the space station for the last time.

Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday. The two spacecraft were soaring above the Pacific when they parted company — forever.

The space shuttle and its crew of four are due back on Earth on Thursday. Their Florida homecoming will mark the end of NASA’s 30-year shuttle era.

Atlantis left behind a year’s worth of supplies, as well as a commemorative shuttle model and a U.S. flag that flew on the first shuttle mission in 1981.

Atlantis will join Discovery and Endeavour in retirement after this 13-day journey, the 135th for the shuttle programme. All three will become museum displays.

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