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Space Shuttle Atlantis undocks from International Space Station

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Space Shuttle Atlantis undocks from ISS
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Atlantis lifted off July 8 on NASA's final space shuttle mission
  • It is scheduled to return Thursday
  • Afterward, NASA will rely on the Russian space agency to ferry U.S. astronauts to orbit

(CNN) -- For the last time in the foreseeable future, a U.S. space shuttle undocked from the International Space Station.

Space shuttle Atlantis separated from the International Space Station at 2:28 a.m. ET Tuesday, about 250 miles above Earth. It will return home Thursday from NASA's final space shuttle mission.

Several hours before the undocking, the crew woke up to the song "Don't Panic" by Coldplay.

Atlantis lifted off July 8 on NASA's final space shuttle mission.

Atlantis bids goodbye
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The first shuttle, Columbia, blasted off in April 1981. Since then, space shuttle crews have fixed satellites, performed scientific studies, and ferried materials and people to International Space Station Alpha, a football field-sized construction project in orbit.

In 134 missions, five space shuttles have ferried 355 astronauts into space.

When Atlantis lands, it will leave the United States with no way to lift humans into space for the first time in decades. NASA will rely on the Russian space agency to ferry U.S. astronauts to orbit.

 
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