As the miles melted between Atlantis and the International Space Station, the emotions grew - in orbit and on the ground.
At Mission Control on Sunday, lead flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho declared "this is it" as he gave the OK for the final docking in space shuttle history. Flashbacks to the shuttle's very first space station docking - with Russia's Mir in 1995 - flooded his mind as viewed the shuttle on the screens. He was a NASA trainee back then.
About 240 miles above the Pacific, the station's naval bell chimed a salute - one of many landmarks, or rather spacemarks, of this final two-week shuttle mission that are being savored one by one.
"Atlantis arriving," called out space station astronaut Ronald Garan Jr. "Welcome to the International Space Station for the last time."
"And it's great to be here," replied shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson.