Space shuttle Endeavour swooped in from the darkness and landed at Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday, rolling to a stop at its home port for the final time.
"It's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy," Commander Mark Kelly radioed after easing Endeavour onto the runway.
The relatively rare overnight landing capped a two-week mission that included the delivery of a $2-billion particle physics experiment to the international space station. But the mission objectives were largely relegated to the background for the high-profile flight.
Last month's launch drew a high level of interest from the media and the public not just because it was Endeavour's last, but because of the drama surrounding Commander Kelly's wife.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was badly wounded in an assassination attempt back in January. She has been out of the public eye while recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, but made the trip to Florida to see her husband's launch – twice, in fact, after the first attempt was scrubbed.
Kelly spoke during the mission about his eagerness to see his wife, who underwent surgery just days after launch. She did not travel to Florida for the landing, citing the early hour. So their reunion will have to wait a day.
Endeavour, meanwhile, will be headed for retirement following this, its 25th flight. After several months of decommissioning work, it will end up as a museum piece at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
VIDEO ABOVE: WATCH ENDEAVOUR LAND
The next, and final, shuttle flight will be Atlantis's STS-135 mission in July. Atlantis was actually rolling towards its launch pad as Endeavour touched down on the runway, four miles away.
PHOTOS: Atlantis's STS-135 rollout
After the shuttle fleet is retired, NASA will rely on Russian capsules to ferry astronauts and supplies to the space station. But the agency hopes commercial companies will be prepared to fill that gap within a few years.