Atlantis’ astronauts made sure today that all of the systems they will use in Sunday’s planned landing are in good working order, and finished packing up for the ride home.
Commander Ken Cockrell and Pilot Mark Polansky tested the manifold valves of their reaction control system jets, but didn’t perform the usual “hot firing” of the jets that will be used to guide the shuttle’s descent into the atmosphere, since the jets were used extensively during the mission. They also checked out Atlantis’ three hydraulic power units and the aerodynamic control surfaces they drive.
Before lunch, Cockrell and Polansky were joined by Mission Specialists Robert Curbeam, Tom Jones and Marsha Ivins for a review of the deorbit and entry procedures they’ll use. After lunch, the entire crew pitched in to stow their supplies and equipment for landing, and took turns exercising.
There are two landing opportunities available Sunday for Atlantis in Florida. The first begins with a deorbit burn on Orbit 169 at 10:47 a.m. and culminates in a landing at 11:53 a.m. Central time on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center. A backup opportunity one orbit later starts with a deorbit burn at 12:22 p.m., resulting in a 1:28 p.m. Central time landing. The weather forecast Sunday calls for generally favorable conditions in Florida, with the possibility of brisk winds near the three-mile-long landing strip.
Meanwhile, on the the International Space Station, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev are enjoying a weekend off before forging ahead with activation of the newly arrived Destiny laboratory’s systems. Next week, they’ll also get ready to undock and move their Soyuz vehicle from the Zvezda module’s aft docking port to the Zarya module’s nadir port.
With the departure of Atlantis, Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev returned to their normal operational schedule, going to sleep at 3:30 p.m. and waking up at midnight central time. On the shuttle, the five astronauts will begin their sleep period tonight 30 minutes earlier than on previous days, at 7:43 p.m. Central time, and awaken at 3:43 a.m. to begin suiting up for landing.
Atlantis and the International Space Station continue to revolve around the Earth in great shape, with all systems functioning normally. The shuttle is leading the station by about 215 statute miles, with the gap widening by about 15 miles every orbit.
The Johnson Space Center newsroom will close at 9 p.m. and reopen at 4 a.m. Sunday. The next mission status report will be issued at 5 a.m. Central time Sunday.
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