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Shuttle's Last Landing Looms

CAPE CANAVERAL (CBS4)-For the last time a United States space shuttle undocked from the International Space Station.

As the shuttle pulled away, the  docking port grew dimmer and fuzzier in the gloaming darkness of space.

While on board the International Space Station astronauts and cosmonauts bid a final farewell.

"Atlantis departs for the last time...the 12th visit to the ISS," a crew member announced.

The departure wraps up a mission to bring more than 8,200 pounds of supplies to the space station. That is nearly a year's worth.

"At the moment it's a bit somber because we're saying good-bye to an old friend," said Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson.

While docked at the space station, astronauts also conducted several important experiments including the robotic refueling mission, testing tools and techniques that would be needed for long trips in space including trips to Mars or an asteroid.

NASA managers pronounced everything a huge success.

"It's been an absolute honor to be part of this final crew," exclaimed Commander Ferguson.

As Atlantis headed home it's crew of four took time to hold the last news conference from a shuttle in space and reflect on a series of final events to end the 30 year shuttle program.

"To me it kind of hits me when I'm sitting down on the middeck sometimes at the end of the day," said Rex Walheim, one of the astronauts on Atlantis. "And you have a chance just a couple of minutes to grab a bite to eat and think of the past crews that have sat down here and that shared a meal and think about 'wow' this the last time."

Sandy Magnus is another shuttle astronaut.

" I treated this mission as if it was going to be my last mission and tried to savor every moment I was on the space station and every moment we're here on Atlantis," she said. "And get those last glances out the window at our beautiful earth and try and print those on my memory as well."

Atlantis' crew is schedule to wake up for the last time in space at approximately 10 p.m.  eastern. Then they will be preparing for the final voyage back to Earth.

Another milestone occured today 42 years ago: humans first walked on the moon.

Atlantis is schedule to touch down Thursday at 5:56 a.,m.


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