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STS-122: Atlantis Back At KSC

Atlantis is tucked away safe after a successful mission to the ISSNASA reports:

NASA Celebrates 'Super' Mission

Space shuttle Atlantis landing. NASA PHOTO NO: STS122-S-079 Image: Space shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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Feb. 20
Space shuttle Atlantis soared through a thin layer of clouds over NASA's Kennedy Space Center before touching its wheels to the runway Wednesday to end a flawless STS-122 mission.

"This was just an unbelievably super mission for us," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations. "I can't think of a better way to start this year out than with this great flight."

Commander Steve Frick, Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Dan Tani and European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegel flew aboard Atlantis on the way back to Earth.

Although STS-122 lasted about 13 days, Tani had been living in space and aboard the International Space Station for 120 days by the time Atlantis landed. European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts launched aboard Atlantis and took Tani's place on the station.

Two weeks in space did not feel like a long time, the crew said, because there were plenty of tasks to take care of.

"It doesn't feel like about two weeks ago that we launched," Poindexter said.

The mission added the European-built Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. The lab will host experiments from throughout Europe's scientific community and will be an important part of the orbiting research complex. NASA's own Destiny laboratory was already in orbit as part of the ISS. A Japanese laboratory complex will complete a cutting-edge trio of research bases that will host astronauts and experiments at the station.

"The station missions now are so busy," Frick said. "It's been a tremendous experience. We were very excited and pleased to bring Columbus to the International Space Station."

Space shuttle Endeavour is already perched on its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to launch the first module for the Japanese lab. It is to launch March 11.

"It feels really good to have mission back-to-back again," said Mike Leinbach, launch director at Kennedy. "The team is really pumped to get going and get ready for their next flight."

The seven astronauts will stay at the launch site overnight before flying back to Houston.

Atlantis is back inside its hangar at Kennedy where technicians will get it ready for an August mission to perform the last maintenance mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

+ View landing ground tracks

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Flight Day 14 pics are up at the JSC Gallery. Landing Day videos here. Discussion here. Status Report #27 here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

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