Sixteen years after it became the first shuttle to dock at an orbiting outpost -- Russia's Mir station -- Atlantis is now the last after shoving away from the International Space Station.
"Physical separation, Houston," Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson radioed at 2:28 a.m. EDT.
"Atlantis weighs anchor from the International Space Station for the last time," said NASA TV commentator Rob Navias. "Twelve and a half years of shuttle missions to build and service a million-pound complex at an end."
The two spacecraft were flying almost 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean east of Christchurch, New Zealand at the time of undocking.
Ferguson and station flight engineer Ron Garan exchanged parting remarks shortly before the undocking.
"Hey station, it looks like the sun is getting ready to go down and we just wanted to tell you one more time, thanks so much for hosting us," said Ferguson. "It's a great station and it’s been an absolute pleasure to participate in three different shuttle missions that have come up and docked to you and helped you get bigger and better with every pass. So we’ll see you out there at 600 feet."
"Copy that, Fergie," Garan replied. "We really appreciate it. We’ll miss you guys and we’ll see you back on Earth and we’ll try to get some good pictures here."
Atlantis was docked for 8 days, 15 hours and 21 minutes.
In total, shuttles during 37 station missions were docked for 276 days, 11 hours and 23 minutes -- almost 40 weeks of work.