Atlantis Lands Safely at KSC

Image credit: NASA

Thanks in part to perfect weather, the space shuttle Atlantis touched down safely on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center. During their 11 days in space, the astronaut crew performed three spacewalks to successfully install the S1 truss to the International Space Station. The next mission to the ISS will be a Soyuz taxi flight, followed shortly by the space shuttle Endeavour; tentatively scheduled to launch November 10th.

Space Shuttle Atlantis glided to a noontime landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida completing a 4.5 million mile journey to outfit the International Space Station with a new section of truss and supplies for the Expedition crew onboard.

With weather of little concern today, Commander Jeff Ashby piloted the shuttle to its 60th landing at KSC at 10:44 a.m. CDT. The deorbit burn occurred an hour earlier as Atlantis flew high above the southwestern Indian Ocean, dropping the shuttle out of orbit for the high-speed reentry and landing.

Atlantis’ ground track carried it above Central America and western Cuba before crossing the west coast of Florida south of Tampa. Ashby took over manual control of Atlantis at an altitude of 50,000 feet, guiding the 200,000 pound shuttle through a 290-degree right turn to line up with Runway 33.

Meanwhile, aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition Five crew was able to watch Atlantis’ safe landing while the three crewmembers continue to unpack and stow supplies delivered by the shuttle crew. Commander Valery Korzun, NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson and Cosmonaut Sergei Treschev are in their 135th day in space (133rd aboard the station).

Their next visitors are the three members of a Soyuz Taxi Crew scheduled to deliver a fresh rescue spacecraft to the station later this month. Expedition Five’s ride home will be aboard Endeavour scheduled to launch no earlier than Nov. 10 bringing another truss segment and the Expedition Six crew.

Atlantis will be hauled into its hangar later today to begin preparations for its next mission to the station in March 2003 on the STS-114 mission.

Atlantis’ six crewmembers are expected to hold a news conference at about 4 p.m. today on NASA Television and plan to return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston Saturday at about 5:30 p.m. That time is subject to change.

The next ISS status report will be issued next Friday, Oct. 25, or as events warrant.

Original Source: NASA News Release