The STS-135 astronauts got to take a look at the vehicle that carried them on the final space shuttle mission, and paused for a moment to reflect on the journey.
"Although we got to take the ride," said Commander Chris Ferguson on behalf of his crew, " we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us."
In the shadow of Atlantis as it sat on the runway at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, the crew was welcomed back by senior NASA officials, including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
"They have come to be known as the "final four." They did and absolutely incredible job," said Bolden. "They made us very proud."
A shuttle program post-landing news conference is set for 10 a.m. EDT, followed by a crew news conference at noon. Both will be carried live on NASA TV and online at www.nasa.gov/ntv. Participants in the 10 a.m. panel will be Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director, Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager, and Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director.
Atlantis landed at 5:57 a.m. EDT, after 200 orbits around Earth and a journey of 5,284,862 miles.
The STS-135 crew consisted of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. They delivered more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies in the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module - including 2,677 pounds of food - that will sustain space station operations for the next year. The 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Raffaello brought back nearly 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station.
A welcome home ceremony for the astronauts will be held Friday, July 22, in Houston. The public is invited to attend the 4 p.m. CDT event at NASA's Hangar 990 at Ellington Field. Gates to Ellington Field will open at 3:30 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast live on NASA Television.