The space shuttle Atlantis, after successfully delivering a major new section to the international space station, glided to a safe landing at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday morning, announcing its arrival with twin sonic booms just before touchdown.
Ending a challenging 13-day mission, Atlantis and a crew of seven took advantage of favorable weather to return to Florida.
Atlantis' mission, which was delayed for two months because of a recurring problem with malfunctioning fuel tank sensors, mostly went according to plan.
The primary objective was to add the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory module to the orbiting space station. The laboratory, crammed with scientific equipment, is Europe's main contribution to the international project.
Atlantis' next flight, scheduled for August, will be the last mission to send astronauts to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.
In the meantime, NASA is preparing to launch the shuttle Endeavour on March 11. It will carry the first piece of Japan's huge space station lab, named Kibo. Discovery will follow with more of the lab in late May.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.