U.S. shuttle Atlantis docks with space station

13:22, July 11, 2011      

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The space shuttle Atlantis is seen with part of the structure of the International Space Station in the foreground and the earth in the background as it approaches the station for docking in this still image from NASA TV July 10, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

U.S. space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station on Sunday morning after nearly two days of flight.

Commander Christopher Ferguson guided space shuttle Atlantis to a docking with the station at 11:07 a.m. EDT (1507 GMT) when the two spacecrafts were flying 240 miles up over east of New Zealand, according to NASA.

This was the 12th and final time Atlantis docked to the space station. It was the 46th shuttle docking to a space station, nine to the Russian Mir station and 37 to the International Space Station.

The shuttle and station crews will open hatches and hold the traditional welcome ceremony at about 1:19 p.m. EDT (1719 GMT). The combined crew of 10 will begin more than a week of docked operations, transferring vital supplies and equipment to sustain station operations once the shuttles are retired.

Atlantis lifted off on Friday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on the 135th and final flight in NASA's shuttle program.

It is the 33rd voyage for Atlantis. Its return to the earth later this month will mark the end of the 30-year shuttle program.

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