HOUSTON - The shuttle Atlantis astronauts finished packing more than 2 tons of old equipment and trash from the International Space Station into a cargo hauler on Sunday for the last shuttle ride back to Earth.
The Italian-built storage pod will be loaded into Atlantis' payload bay early Monday, in advance of the shuttle's departure from the station early on Tuesday. The 13-day mission, the last of NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program, is due to end with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:57 a.m. EDT (0957 GMT) on Thursday.
"This is really the last train out of town," Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson said during an inflight interview. "I don't think the full magnitude of everything is really going to hit us until after the wheels stop."