Atlantis Undocks from the Station, Prepares for Landing

Image credit: NASA

After a week of successful construction work, the 7-astronaut crew of the space shuttle Atlantis said their goodbyes to the crew of the International Space Station, closed the hatch, and undocked. During their time at the station, the crew of Atlantis installed $790 million in equipment, including a new girder and railcar which will support future expansion of the station. The shuttle is expected to land back in Florida on Friday.

Now separated from the International Space Station by about 85 statute miles and moving away at about 12 miles with each orbit of the Earth, Atlantis crewmembers turn their attention today to preparing for a return trip home.

The crew ? Commander Mike Bloomfield, Pilot Steve Frick, Mission Specialists Ellen Ochoa, Rex Walheim, Lee Morin, Jerry Ross and Steve Smith ? was awakened at 2:44 a.m. to ?Somewhere Over the Rainbow,? performed by Bloomfield?s daughter.

Bloomfield, Frick and Ochoa will test fire the reaction control system jets and flight control surfaces that will be used to guide Atlantis through the atmosphere on Friday morning. Atlantis is scheduled to return to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:26 a.m. CDT Friday where preliminary weather forecasts for landing are favorable.

Crewmembers will take a break from their on orbit work today to talk with media representatives from CNN, WDIV-TV in Detroit and the Fox News Network this morning in an interview beginning at 9:14

Atlantis? orbital maneuvering jets will be fired twice today. Once will be for scientists to look at the exhaust?s effects on radar echoes and effects of orbital kinetic energy on the ionosphere. The other firing will reduce the cross range for Friday?s backup landing opportunity in Florida. Walheim, Morin, Ross and Smith will continue to pack away equipment and supplies onboard the shuttle and prepare the cabin for landing.

On board the International Space Station the Expedition 4 crew ? Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Dan Bursch and Carl Walz ? was awakened at 3 a.m. They are preparing for their next visitors, a Soyuz taxi crew slated to arrive April 27. Onufrienko, Walz and Bursch, will board the current Soyuz spacecraft and move it from its location on the Zarya docking port to the Pirs docking compartment on Saturday to make room for the replacement Soyuz.

The crew of Atlantis will begin a scheduled eight-hour sleep period at 6:14 p.m. today, waking just after 2 a.m. Friday to prepare for reentry and landing of Atlantis concluding a successful mission to the station.

Original Source: NASA News Release