The astronauts on NASA's final shuttle voyage said a poignant farewell Monday (7/18) to the crew aboard the International Space Station before floating out for the final time.
Before they left, however, they left behind an historic U.S. flag and a commemorative shuttle model to mark the end of a 30-year era.
Atlantis' commander, Christopher Ferguson, presented the flag to the space station crew, along with a small model of a space shuttle.
He said he wishes he could have brought a monument to commemorate the 30-year shuttle program, but it would not have fit.
``We brought the best monument we could possibly find, and that's a space shuttle model,'' he said.
Space station astronaut Ronald Garan Jr. attached the small flag which rocketed into orbit on the very first shuttle flight on Columbia in 1981 to the door of the space station hatch before the shuttle astronauts departed.
It was a heartfelt goodbye for the two crews, numbering 10 astronauts in all from three countries.
They embraced one another and then the doors shut behind the four person Atlantis crew, marking the end of a chapter in our nation's history.
Atlantis is scheduled to return to the Kennedy Space center Thursday morning.