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Atlantis undocks from station ready for Thursday landing

Crew snap unprecedented pics of orbiting outpost

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Space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station, as commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim prepare to fly the venerable vehicle into history.

Atlantis "weighed anchor" from the orbiting outpost at 06:28 GMT, ahead of a scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center at 09:56 GMT on Thursday.

Atlantis and the ISS seen just after today's undocking. Pics: NASA TV

Hurley guided the shuttle to around 600ft (183 metres) from the station, where he parked for just shy of half an hour as the ISS yawed 90 degrees to "present its longitudinal axis to Atlantis".

He then performed a fly-around to allow Walheim and Magnus "to snap digital pictures of the station from angles the shuttle never has seen before during a fly-around".

Atlantis's final separation burn to move away from the ISS came at 08:20 GMT.

Ferguson and his crew yesterday bid farewell to the orbiting outpost's Expedition 28 members, leaving behind a space shuttle model and the US flag which first flew aboard Columbia on its STS-1 mission back in April 1981.

Atlantis's swansong STS-135 mission delivered 9,403 pounds [4.27 tonnes] of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies to the ISS, packed in the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module. The module is returning to Earth aboard the shuttle loaded with 5,666 pounds [2.57 tonnes] of waste and redundant equipment.

NASA has the latest shuttle news right here. ®

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