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Last Updated: Wednesday February 20 2008 16:57 GMT

Space shuttle mission touch down

The space shuttle Atlantis with parachute

The shuttle Atlantis has safely returned to Earth after a successful 13-day trip to space.

The spacecraft touched down at 2.07 pm at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with seven astronauts on board.

They had been on a mission to install Europe's first science laboratory, called Columbus, onto the International Space Station (ISS).

The shuttle's return cleared the skies for America to shoot down a spy satellite before it crashes to Earth.

The US military were waiting for the shuttle to land so they can safely destroy the out-of-control satellite over the Pacific ocean.

Before landing Atlantis, the commander, Stephen Frick, circled high over the spaceport to burn off speed.

Atlantis blasting off
The space shuttle blasted into space 13 days ago

The spaceplane touched down on a three-mile long runway, just a few miles west of where it had blasted off 13 days ago.

Afterwards, Frick thanked the ground controllers, saying: "Thanks for keeping us safe when we're airborne and bringing us safely home."

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