EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Atlantis and its seven astronauts returned to Earth safely Thursday June 21st, ending a two-week mission to deliver an addition to the international space station and bring home a crew member from the outpost.
Atlantis crossed the Pacific and glided to a stop at 2:49 p.m. on a runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. NASA managers had hoped to land the shuttle in Florida, but bad weather forced controllers to abandon that plan.
Atlantis' return from NASA's first manned flight of the year was marked by its trademark twin sonic booms that were heard from San Diego to Los Angeles. After deploying its parachute, the shuttle came to rest on the concrete runway under mostly sunny skies.
Astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams returned to Earth on Atlantis after spending more than six months at the space station. She set an endurance record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 195 days. During her stay, she also set the record for most time spacewalking by a woman.
She told reporters the day before landing that she looked forward to a slice of pizza and walking on the beach with her husband and dog, Gorby. But she was going to miss the space station.
"When you've been somewhere for six months, it becomes your home and it's hard to leave," Williams said.
Returning with Williams were Atlantis commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, James Reilly, Steven Swanson and Danny Olivas.
Atlantis delivered a 35,000-pound addition to the space station and Clay Anderson, who replaced Williams as the U.S. representative at the station. He will live with cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov for the next four months.
The last time a shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base was in 2005, the first flight after the Columbia disaster in 2003.