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EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. --  Returning from mission STS-117, Atlantis approaches touchdown on the runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Atlantis landed on orbit 219 after 13 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes in space.  The landing was diverted to California due to marginal weather at the Kennedy Space Center.  Main gear touchdown was at 3:49:38 p.m. EDT on runway 22.  Nose gear touchdown was at 3:49:49 p.m. and wheel stop was at 3:50:48 p.m.  This was the 51st landing for the Space Shuttle Program at Edwards Air Force Base. The mission to the International Space Station was a success, installing and activating the S3/S4 truss and retracting the P6 arrays.  The returning crew of seven includes astronaut Sunita Williams, who was flight engineer on the Expedition 15 crew.  She achieved a new milestone, a record-setting flight at 194 days, 18 hours and 58 minutes, the longest single spaceflight ever by a female astronaut or cosmonaut.   Photo credit: NASA/Tony Landis KSC-07pd1615

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. -- Returning from mission STS-117, Atlantis approaches touchdown on the runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Atlantis landed on orbit 219 after 13 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes in space. The landing was diverted to California due to marginal weather at the Kennedy Space Center. Main gear touchdown was at 3:49:38 p.m. EDT on runway 22. Nose gear touchdown was at 3:49:49 p.m. and wheel stop was at 3:50:48 p.m. This was the 51st landing for the Space Shuttle Program at Edwards Air Force Base. The mission to the International Space Station was a success, installing and activating the S3/S4 truss and retracting the P6 arrays. The returning crew of seven includes astronaut Sunita Williams, who was flight engineer on the Expedition 15 crew. She achieved a new milestone, a record-setting flight at 194 days, 18 hours and 58 minutes, the longest single spaceflight ever by a female astronaut or cosmonaut. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Landis KSC-07pd1615

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EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. -- Returning from mission STS-117, Atlantis approaches touchdown on the runway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Atlantis landed on orbit 219 after 13 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes in space. The landing was diverted to California due to marginal weather at the Kennedy Space Center. Main gear touchdown was at 3:49:38 p.m. EDT on runway 22. Nose gear touchdown was at 3:49:49 p.m. and wheel stop was at 3:50:48 p.m. This was the 51st landing for the Space Shuttle Program at Edwards Air Force Base. The mission to the International Space Station was a success, installing and activating the S3/S4 truss and retracting the P6 arrays. The returning crew of seven includes astronaut Sunita Williams, who was flight engineer on the Expedition 15 crew. She achieved a new milestone, a record-setting flight at 194 days, 18 hours and 58 minutes, the longest single spaceflight ever by a female astronaut or cosmonaut. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Landis

The Space Shuttle program was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and lands as a glider. Although the concept had been explored since the late 1960s, the program formally commenced in 1972 and was the focus of NASA's manned operations after the final Apollo and Skylab flights in the mid-1970s. It started with the launch of the first shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, on STS-1. and finished with its last mission, STS-135 flown by Atlantis, in July 2011.

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22/06/2007
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Kennedy Space Center, FL
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