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Atlantis Heads Home

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Mon Jul 2, 2007 12:15 am
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Early Sunday morning, Space Shuttle Atlantis began its journey back to Kennedy Space Center “piggy-backed” on top of a modified 747 jetliner called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

The enroute plan includes refueling stops and a stop overnight. The anticipated arrival at the Kennedy Space Center will be no earlier than Monday July 2 with a possibility of arriving Tuesday July 3 if weather conditions are not favorable for a Monday landing.

Atlantis landed at Edwards concluding a successful assembly mission to the International Space Station with Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Lee Archambault at the controls. Atlantis landed at 3:49 p.m. EDT on June 22.

The STS-117 mission astronauts returned to Johnson Space Center on Saturday, June 23. Their return was marked by a traditional welcome home ceremony at Ellington Field in Houston.

The STS-117 crew began its mission June 8 and arrived at the station June 10. They quickly began work to install the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss structure to the outpost and retracted a set of arrays on the Port 6 (P6) truss. The (S3/S4) contains a new set of solar arrays that increases station power-generation capabilities. The P6 will be relocated during a future assembly mission.

Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester, John “Danny” Olivas, Jim Reilly and Steven Swanson conducted a total of four spacewalks to activate the S3/S4 and to retract the P6 arrays. During the third spacewalk, Olivas repaired an out of position thermal blanket on the left orbital maneuvering system pod.

Landing also marked the end of a record-setting spaceflight by Mission Specialist Suni Williams. She broke the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman and she also became the record-holder for the most hours outside a spacecraft by a female, completing four spacewalks during Expedition 14.

Williams’ journey began in December with the launch of STS-116. She lived on the space station for six months before switching places on the STS-117 crew with Clayton Anderson, who is now a flight engineer on the station. When Atlantis landed, she had accumulated 194 days, 18 hours and 58 minutes during her spaceflight.

STS-117 is the 118th shuttle mission and 21st mission to visit the space station. The next mission, STS-118, is slated to launch in August.

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