On the eve of NASA's historic, wheel-stopping end to the shuttle program, the four astronauts making the final journey said Wednesday they're starting to feel a rush of emotions.
"You know what? I really do feel like it's coming near the end," said the commander of the homeward-bound space shuttle Atlantis, Christopher Ferguson.
"It's going to be tough," Ferguson said in a series of TV interviews 24 hours before Thursday's planned touchdown. "It's going to be an emotional moment for a lot of people who have dedicated their lives to the shuttle program for 30 years. But we're going to try to keep it upbeat. We're going to try to keep it light, and we're going to try to make it a celebration of the tremendous crowning achievements that have occurred over the last 30 years."
Among the highlights noted Wednesday by the four-member crew as well as flight controllers: the 180 satellites deployed into orbit by the space shuttle fleet and the construction of the International Space Station, a nearly 1 million-pound science outpost that took 12 1/2 years and 37 shuttle flights to build.
Atlantis departed the space station Tuesday, after restocking it with a year's worth of supplies.