The space shuttle Atlantis touched down Wednesday at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, bringing an end to its last scheduled mission.

The landing marks the likely end of Atlantis’ 25 years of space flight as NASA retires the ageing space shuttle fleet.

Only two further missions, by the Endeavour and Discovery shuttles, are planned by the US space agency NASA before those vessels are also taken out of service. The last shuttle flight is set for November.

During its 11-day mission, Atlantis had brought new Russian research equipment and a docking module to the ISS in the ongoing construction of the international station. Astronauts carried out three spacewalks to exchange the electrical batteries of the ISS and to install a new antenna.

Since its first flight in October 1985, Atlantis has made 32 flights and travelled more than 120 million miles.

Though NASA stressed throughout the mission that this flight was like any other, ground crew admitted before blast-off that it was a bittersweet time as the shuttle crew winds down.

Atlantis will not be mothballed right away, allowing NASA to keep it on hand for a possible rescue mission.

“We'll turn this incredible machine over to the ground crew to put it in the barn for a bit,” Commander Ken Ham said after steering Atlantis to the runway.

The retirement of the shuttle fleet has long been planned, but has come under increased scrutiny after President Barack Obama cancelled Bush-era plans to return to moon in a next generation spacecraft.

That plan was deemed over budget and behind schedule. Mr. Obama has instead chosen to promote commercial spaceflight to nearby destinations and to focus NASA on long-term goals, such as reaching Mars.

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