On board Atlantis, the seven-member crew is preparing their vehicle for its high-speed reentry and landing at the Kennedy Space Center today at 5:59 p.m. Central time. While generally favorable weather conditions are expected, weather forecasters will continue to track wind conditions at KSC which are expected to be near the cross wind limit.
This morning, the astronauts will finish stowing any final items necessary to secure Atlantis’ crew cabin for this afternoon’s planned landing. Mission Specialists Vladimir Titov and Jean-Loup Chretien will button-up the Spacehab module today, shutting down systems and securing any loose items, prior to closing the entry hatch to that module.
Following an on-board briefing to review reentry procedures, the astronauts will begin their deorbit preparations just before 1 p.m. CDT Sunday. Atlantis’ payload bay doors are scheduled to be closed about 2:11 p.m. and the crew will don their launch and entry suits shortly before 3 p.m. Entry Flight Director Linda Ham is expected to poll the flight control team for a final "go/no go" decision for the deorbit burn 20 minutes prior to the planned firing of Atlantis’ orbital maneuvering system engines at 4:52 p.m.
There is a second opportunity for Atlantis to return to KSC today, in the event weather prohibits landing on the first opportunity, with the deorbit burn at 6:30 p.m. central time with landing to follow at 7:36 p.m. The back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base, California has not been called up to support landing opportunities today. If Atlantis lands on the second opportunity, it should create a bright plasma trail in the skies over the southeast as it streaks toward Florida.
Atlantis’ crew may be able to view the launch of a Progress resupply vehicle this morning, with the Progress scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome shortly after 10 a.m. central time. At the time of the launch, Atlantis will be traveling toward the northeast, overhead Jordan. About three minutes later, Atlantis should be close enough to the launch site to allow them to view the rocket plume.
A landing today will conclude a 144-day stay in space for astronaut Mike Foale. Foale’s replacement on the Mir, David Wolf, is continuing his work with his two crewmates on board the Mir.
The next STS-86 status report will be issued following either Atlantis’ landing at the Kennedy Space Center or a wave-off of landing opportunities.
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