The STS-106 astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis are preparing for their return to Earth with a planned predawn touchdown on the 3-mile long Shuttle Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:56 a.m. CDT Wednesday. The forecasted weather for early Wednesday shows essentially favorable conditions with some concern for rain showers in the vicinity of the Florida spaceport.
Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman and Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov were awaken at 5:46 p.m. to the song "Houston", performed by Dean Martin.
Just before 10 p.m., the astronauts will begin their deorbit preparations. After closing Atlantis' payload bay doors at 11:10 p.m., the crew will put on their pressurized launch and entry suits and strap into their seats shortly before 1 a.m. Entry Flight Director Wayne Hale is expected to poll the flight control team for the final decision for the deorbit burn 20 minutes prior to the planned firing of Atlantis' orbital maneuvering system engines at 1:50 a.m. Central which would result in a landing for Atlantis at 2:56 a.m.
There is a second landing opportunity available on the next orbit if needed. For the second landing opportunity, Atlantis would fire its engines at 3:26 a.m., for a KSC touchdown at 4:33 a.m. Central.
During their 12-day flight, the astronauts spent a week docked to the International Space Station during which they transferred more than 3 tons of supplies and equipment, preparing the orbiting facility as a home for the first resident, or Expedition, crew, scheduled to arrive at the new outpost in early November.
The next mission status report will be issued shortly after landing or a landing waveoff early Wednesday morning.
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