By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Home, and job done: Commander Chris Ferguson, right, shakes hands with pilot Doug Hurley after Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. To their left are crew members Sandra Mangus and Rex Walheim
Atlantis made the perfect landing as dawn broke this morning, gliding down on to the tarmac at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral to bring to an end 30 years of shuttle missions.
It the 135th mission for the fleet, which has covered an astonishing 542 million miles and circled Earth 21,150 times.
And considering this accomplishment, none of the record 2,000 gathered by the landing strip to witness the historic spectacle was complaining that Atlantis was precisely one minute late.
The five shuttles have carried 355 people from 16 countries - and here were the last four astronauts safely home to cheers and tears.
As Commander Christopher Ferguson eased Atlantis on to the runway, he radioed: 'Mission complete, Houston'.
'Job well done, America,' replied Mission Control.
A final stop: Commander Ferguson checks one of Atlantis' chocks and right, addresses the crowds who gathered to watch the historic landing
Incoming: Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson gently steers the 100-ton spaceship high overhead, then nose-dives toward the swamp-surrounded landing strip
Touchdown: Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center one minute behind schedule at 5.57am (10.57am BST) today, bringing to an end Nasa's 30-year shuttle programme
Ferguson added: 'After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle's earned its place in history. And it's come to a final stop,' radioed commander Christopher Ferguson.
The twilight landing, just before dawn, came exactly 30 years and three months after the very first shuttle flight in 1981.
It will be another three to five years at best before Americans are launched again from U.S. soil, with private companies gearing up to seize the Earth-to-orbit-and-back baton from Nasa.
Final farewell: Hundreds of spectators gathered near the runway to welcome Atlantis home - and to bid Nasa's space shuttle programme goodbye
The long-term future for American space exploration is just as hazy, a huge concern for many at NASA and all those losing their jobs because of the shuttle's end.
Asteroids and Mars are the destinations of choice, yet NASA has yet to settle on a rocket design to get astronauts there.
Today, though, belonged to Atlantis and its crew: Ferguson, co-pilot Douglas Hurley, Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, who completed a successful space station resupply mission.
Atlantis' main landing gears touched down at 5:57 a.m. (0957 GMT), with 'wheels stop' less than a minute later.
'The space shuttle has changed the way we view the world and it's changed the way we view our universe,' said Ferguson. 'There's a lot of emotion today, but one thing's indisputable. America's not going to stop exploring.
Atlantis' mission was to resupply the International Space Station, ending a 12-year programme to build and service the orbital research outpost
Atlantis comes to a standstill on the runway. Private companies will now take over trips to the ISS. Nasa's next stop with astronauts will be an asteroid, then Mars
Hugs and cheers inside Johnson Space Center's mission control as staff congratulate themselves on a job well done
NASA employee Jerry Davison, center, and his wife, Maureen, right, take photos, while colleague Sean Carter, right, watches with his family
Fingers crossed: Johnson Space Center employees Jeremy Rea, right, and Shelley Stortz hold hands
Homeward bound: An image of the ISS that was taken by an Atlantis crew member shortly after the shuttle departed the station on Tuesday and, right, docked with the space station
Last lift-off: Hundred of thousands of spectators watched blast-off at Cape Canaveral and millions tuned in to watch the crew chat to President Obama during the mission
NASA - PARTE 1.mp4