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Shuttle Endeavour returns to earth

The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six have landed at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The touchdown ended a 16-day mission which was the penultimate one in the shuttle programme.

Endeavour's crew put the finishing touches on the International Space Station.

Commander Mark Kelly must wait another day before being reunited with his wife. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering at a rehabilitation centre in Houston after being shot in the head in January.

The last shuttle to fly, Atlantis, was almost at the launch pad when Endeavour returned.

Atlantis emerged from the hangar late on Tuesday as thousands of space centre workers and their families lined the route to the pad. Atlantis is due to launch in July.

"122 million miles flown during 25 challenging spaceflights," Mission Control told Kelly and his crew. "Your landing ends a vibrant legacy for this amazing vehicle that will long be remembered. Welcome home, Endeavour."

Kelly replied: "It's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy."

A considerably bigger crowd gathered a few hours earlier to see Atlantis make its way to the launch pad, the last such trek ever by a shuttle. Thousands of workers and their families lined the route as Atlantis crept out of the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building a little after sunset, bathed in xenon lights.

"The show pretty much tells itself," Atlantis's commander, Christopher Ferguson, said as he waved towards his craft. "We're going to look upon this final mission as a celebration of all that the space shuttle has accomplished over its 30-year life span."


From Belfast Telegraph