America's space shuttle programme has passed into history with the words "wheels stop" crackling over the cockpit radio for the last time.
In an almost anti-climactic end to the 30-year-old programme, Atlantis and its four astronauts glided to a ghostly landing in near-darkness on Thursday after one last visit to the International Space Station, completing the 135th and final shuttle flight.
"I saw grown men and grown women crying today - tears of joy to be sure," said launch director Mike Leinbach. "Human emotions came out on the runway today, and you couldn't suppress them."
Now the spaceship and the two other surviving shuttles will become museum pieces, like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules and the Wright brothers' flying machine before them.
Nasa astronauts, a dwindling breed, will now have to hitch rides to the space station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules for at least three to five years and thousands more shuttle workers will lose their jobs, beginning with a round of redundancies today.
The spaceship's return was witnessed at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, and Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, by a relatively small crowd, mostly of Nasa family and friends, compared with the one million who watched Atlantis lift off on July 8.
In Houston, flight director Tony Ceccacci, who presided over Atlantis' safe return, choked up while signing off from Mission Control for the final time.
"The work done in this room, in this building, will never again be duplicated," he told his team before the doors opened and the centre filled with dozens of past and present flight controllers.
Staff traded goodbye hugs and took souvenir photos of their colleagues, knowing some of them will not be be returning next week.
Close to 9,500 contract workers in total will have been laid off across the US due to the shuttle programme's demise. The latest round of redundancies - between 1,500 and 1,800 in Florida - takes place on Friday.