Endeavour closes hatch with International Space Station
The shuttle Endeavour closed the hatch with the International Space Station for the final time Sunday, dpa reported.
Endeavour is making its final flight as NASA prepares to retire the ageing space shuttle fleet, and its mission included the last-ever spacewalks completed by a shuttle crew.
Endeavour blasted off May 16 on a 16-day mission, delivering to the ISS a high-tech particle detector that scientists hope could provide clues about the formation of the universe.
According to a tweet from NASA, the hatches between the two spacecraft were open for a total of 10 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes.
The 2-billion-dollar particle physics detector, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, will allow scientists to measure cosmic rays in the search for dark matter and antimatter.
One more shuttle flight is planned, with Atlantis to fly in July to the station.
The shuttle is the only spacecraft large enough to bring bulky cargo such as major parts to the orbiting station, though Russian, European and Japanese vehicles can left smaller payloads.
The shuttle fleet is being retired after 30 history-making years, as the US space agency focuses its efforts on developing a long-range vehicle for travel to Mars and other distant destinations.
The space agency hopes to contract with commercial spaceflight providers to conduct short missions to the space station. While those craft are being developed, astronauts will rely on the Russian Soyuz craft.