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Nasa Shuttle Atlantis docks with International Space Station

Nasa Shuttle Atlantis docks

 The shuttle docked with the International Space Station at 11:07 am (1507 GMT), just over an hour after the spacecraft performed its habitual slow backflip so that the ISS crew could take pictures of Atlantis’s heat shield before clasping onto the lab, NASA said.

“Welcome to the International Space Station for the last time,” said ISS flight engineer Ron Garan after the linkup took place 240 miles (386 kilometers) high over New Zealand.

Hatches opened between the two spacecraft at 12:47 pm (1647 GMT), and the four Atlantis astronauts floated across to greet their ISS crewmates with hugs and smiles.

Atlantis began its 12-day journey on July 8 with a picture-perfect liftoff from Kennedy Space Center that was watched locally by hundreds of thousands of tourists, and marked the last-ever blastoff of the three decade long program.

The flight marks the end of an era for NASA, leaving Americans with no actively operating government-run human spaceflight program and no method for sending astronauts to space until private industry comes up with a new capsule, likely by 2015 at the earliest.

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