Space shuttle on verge of final landing

By MARCIA DUNN | July 21, 2011 | 2:21 AM EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Perfect weather awaits space shuttle Atlantis in Florida, as the 30-year program draws to a close.

Atlantis' four astronauts closed the payload bay doors in the wee hours of Thursday. That set them on a path toward an on-time landing at 5:56 a.m., just before dawn.

NASA is ending its shuttle program with Atlantis' successful space station resupply mission. It is the 135th flight in shuttle history. This grand finale comes 50 years to the day that Gus Grissom became the second American in space, aboard Liberty Bell 7.

A record crowd of 2,000 is expected at NASA's landing strip to welcome Atlantis home, and to bid the shuttle program goodbye. Atlantis will remain at Kennedy Space Center in retirement as a museum display.