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Shuttle back home after piggyback ride

The space shuttle Atlantis is back home in Florida, more than a week later than originally planned.
Image: Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns To KSC Atop Modified Boeing 747
The space shuttle Atlantis, riding atop a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, touches down at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday after a cross-country piggyback ride.Matt Stroshane / Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The space shuttle Atlantis is back home in Florida, more than a week later than originally planned.

The shuttle finished its cross-country trip from California on Tuesday, anchored to the top of a specially modified Boeing 747.

Atlantis landed in California on May 24 after a 13-day mission to repair and enhance the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle landed there because of poor weather at Kennedy Space Center.

It started the trip home on Monday and spent the night at Texas' Biggs Army Air Field, adjacent to El Paso. On Tuesday morning, the shuttle-jet combo went to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio for refueling. Another refueling stop came at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.

During the trip's final leg, Atlantis was taken on a low-level flyby over the beaches of Florida's Space Coast. Touchdown came at 6:53 p.m. ET at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. After Atlantis is hoisted off its carrier jet, the shuttle will undergo processing for its next scheduled flight in November.

The cross-country trip, capping off a successful mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, cost NASA $1.8 million.

Meanwhile, astronauts on the crew for this month's scheduled flight of the shuttle Endeavour to the international space station came to Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for a dress rehearsal of their launch. STS-127 commander Mark Polansky told reporters that he and his six crewmates were "delighted to be here" and acknowledged that they were facing a "little bit of a compressed schedule."

The launch-pad rehearsal, known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, is scheduled for Thursday. After the rehearsal, the crew will head back to Houston for just a few days, then return to Florida to prepare for Endeavour's June 13 launch date.

Endeavour is slated to deliver the last piece of the station's Japanese Kibo lab. Five spacewalks are planned during the 16-day mission.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and