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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.

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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.

STS-122: DEORBIT BURN!

Space shuttle Atlantis has fired its engines, slowing it enough to drop out of orbit. NASA reports:

Atlantis Headed Home

Mission Control gave STS-122 Commander Steve Frick the "go" for deorbit burn, now complete, putting the crew of Atlantis on course for a 9:07 a.m. EST landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center remain favorable for today's first landing opportunity. All systems aboard Atlantis are performing normally, and the crew was given a "go" to begin fluid loading.

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Landing blogs here and here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

STS-122: Landing Day

Flight Day 14 should be the the last in orbit for the Atlantis crew. The orbiter, with seven astronauts aboard, is due to land today at 9:07AM EST.  NASA reports:

STS-122 Crew Looks to End Mission Today

STS-122 commander Steve Frick will fly Atlantis home today. NASA PHOTO NO: S122-E-010926Four landing opportunities are available for space shuttle Atlantis and the STS-122 crew to return to Earth today. Flight controllers and forecasters continue to monitor the weather at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Atlantis’ first landing opportunity is at 9:07 a.m. EST on orbit 202. If controllers elect to take it, Commander Steve Frick will perform the deorbit burn to begin the descent to Kennedy. Orbit 203 provides a second opportunity at 10:42 a.m.

The first opportunity for the California base is on Orbit 204 at 12:12 p.m. The final opportunity – the second at Edwards – is on Orbit 205 at 1:47 p.m.

STS-122 arrived at the International Space Station Feb. 9, delivering the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus laboratory to the station. The crews installed Columbus Feb. 11 and conducted three spacewalks to prepare Columbus for its scientific work. They also replaced an expended nitrogen tank on the station’s P1 truss.

In addition, Atlantis delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, an ESA astronaut. He replaced astronaut Daniel Tani, who is returning to Earth aboard Atlantis.

STS-122 is the 121st shuttle mission and 24th mission to visit the space station. The next mission, STS-123, is slated to launch in March.

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Flight Day 13 videos are up at the JSC Gallery. Discussion here. Status Report #26 here. Landing blogs here and here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

STS-122: Landing Wednesday

Atlantis is due to come home tomorrow (Wednesday). Weather looks good at KSC. NASA reports:

STS-122 Prepares to Land Wednesday

STS-122 crew members Image above: The STS-122 crew aboard space shuttle Atlantis participate in a live interview Tuesday. Photo credit: NASA TV

The crew members of space shuttle Atlantis spent Tuesday getting ready for their return home and the end of the STS-122 mission.

The STS-122 astronauts set up the recumbent seat for Mission Specialist Daniel Tani, who joined the crew of Atlantis on the International Space Station. The recumbent seat is a special seat designed to reduce the stress of gravity on those who have spent long periods of time in the weightless environment of space.

Tani served as Expedition 16 flight engineer for almost four months. He was replaced on the station crew by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Leopold Eyharts.

As part of the preparations, the astronauts also performed a test Tuesday morning of the steering jets – or thrusters – that will be used to position the orbiter for re-entry. They did not test the four aft orbiter maneuvering system vernier thrusters. These share a common heater, which failed overnight, making them inoperative during the test. These four steering jets are not needed for deorbit or landing and will not have an impact on the remainder of the mission.

The crew members also successfully tested the control surfaces to be used during Atlantis' flight through the atmosphere.

STS-122 arrived at the station Feb. 9, delivering ESA’s Columbus laboratory to the station. The crews installed Columbus Feb. 11 and conducted three spacewalks to prepare Columbus for its scientific work. They also replaced an expended nitrogen tank on the station’s P1 truss.

The orbiter is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Wednesday. Atlantis’ first landing opportunity is at 9:07 a.m. EST.

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Flight Day 12 pics and video are up at the JSC Gallery. Discussion here. Status Report #25 here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

STS-122: Atlantis Undocked

Flight Day 12 saw Atlantis undocking from the ISS, and her crew is getting ready for the Orbiter to land Wednesday. Meanwhile, Endeavour is at the launchpad for a March 11th lifoff on STS-123. NASA reports:

Atlantis Prepares for Journey Home

Pilot Alan Poindexter
Image above: Pilot Alan Poindexter maneuvers space shuttle Atlantis as it undocks from the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA TV

Space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station at 4:24 a.m. EST, ending its almost-nine-day stay at the station. Pilot Alan Poindexter backed the orbiter away from the station and performed a fly-around to allow crew members to collect video and imagery of the orbital outpost with the newly installed Columbus laboratory.

The Atlantis crew also used the shuttle robot arm and the 50-foot long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a final inspection of the shuttle’s heat shield.

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Flight Day 11 pics and video are up at the JSC Gallery. Discussion here. Status Report #23 here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

STS-122: Flight Day 11

Sunday will see the hatches closed between Atlantis and the ISS, with undocking scheduled for this afternoon. Dan Tani, who rolled off Expedition 16 last week, will return home as part of the STS-122 crew. NASA reports:

STS-122 Astronauts Prepare to Leave Station

View of the International Space Station from the space shuttle Atlantis. NASA PHOTO NO: S122-E-008104

The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crews are scheduled to bid one another farewell before the hatches close at 12:15 p.m. EST between space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station. Atlantis is slated to undock at 4:27 a.m. Monday.

Prior to hatch closure, the two crews will continue outfitting racks and systems inside Columbus.

STS-122 arrived at the station Feb. 9, delivering the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus laboratory to the station. The crews installed Columbus Feb. 11 and conducted three spacewalks to prepare Columbus for its scientific work. They also replaced an expended nitrogen tank on the station’s P1 truss.

In addition, Atlantis delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, an ESA astronaut. He replaced astronaut Daniel Tani, who is returning to Earth aboard Atlantis.

The orbiter is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Wednesday.

Flight Day 10 pics and video are up at the JSC Gallery. Discussion here. Status Report #20 here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

STS-122: Flight Day 10

With yesterday's spacewalk wrapping up Atlantis' EVAs, Saturday's tasks include further outfitting of the Space Station's new Columbus Module.

Meanwhile, NASA will open up Edwards AFB as a possible landing site to make sure Atlantis gets home before the imminent shootdown of a dead spy satellite. The ISS crew should not be endangered in the attempt. NASA reports:

Columbus Outfitting Continues

STS-122 and Expedition 16 crews Image above: The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crews gather together for a joint crew news conference on Saturday. Photo credit: NASA TV

The space shuttle Atlantis and International Space Station crews are busy today transferring supplies and equipment into the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus laboratory.

This morning, the station got a reboost, a routine procedure to adjust its orbit. The purpose of the reboost was to place the orbital outpost in better position to receive future visitors, including the Expedition 17 crew, who are slated to arrive in April.

Also, the STS-122 and Expedition 16 crews participated in a joint crew news conference.

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STS-122: Flight Day 9

Friday will see the third EVA of Atlantis' mission to the ISS. NASA reports:

STS-122 Astronauts Prepare for Third Spacewalk

Crew members prepare for spacewalk Image above: STS-122 crew members in the Quest airlock prepare for today's spacewalk. Photo credit: NASA TV

Astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love are getting ready to perform the third STS-122 spacewalk, which begins this morning. The spacewalk is slated to last 6.5 hours.

In this final scheduled spacewalk of the mission, Walheim and Love will install two payloads on the exterior of the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory. The first, SOLAR, is an observatory that will monitor the sun for two years. The second is the European Technology Exposure Facility, which will carry nine experiments requiring exposure to the space environment.

The spacewalkers also will put handrails and worksite interfaces on Columbus.

In addition, Walheim and Love’s tasks include moving a failed control moment gyroscope from its storage location on the station to space shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay for return to Earth.

Atlantis and the STS-122 crew are scheduled to leave the space station on Monday, with undocking slated for 4:26 a.m. EST that day.

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Flight Day 8 videos are up at the JSC Gallery. Discussion here. Status Report #16 here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.