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NASA's Landing Blog - Mission STS-115

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All times are in EDT unless otherwise stated.

8:17 a.m. -- The astronauts are now boarding the "Astrovan" that will carry them to the Crew Quarters where they suited up for this eventful mission just 12 days ago.
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8:13 a.m. -- With a bright blue morning sky overhead, STS-115 Commander Brent Jett, flanked by his crew members, expressed his happiness with how great the mission went, adding, "To the folks at KSC -- Atlantis was a terrific ship! It was critical that she perform well and she did."

Did You Know?
Once the shuttle lands, it is towed by a diesel-powered tractor to the processing facilities via a two-mile tow-way from the Shuttle Landing Facility.

8:06 a.m. -- The astronauts are now inspecting the vehicle and looking at the underbelly of Atlantis. Shortly we expect Commander Jett to make a few comments.
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7:57 a.m. -- The stairs are down on the Crew Transport Vehicle and the astronauts are emerging, with Commander Brent Jett in the lead. They are welcomed by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy, Launch Director Mike Leinbach as well as several others.

7:55 a.m. -- The "Astrovan" has arrived at the landing facility to take the crew to astronaut quarters at the Operations and Checkout building. There they will have lunch and be reunited with their immediate family members. At this time we are waiting to see the stairs come down from the Crew Transport Vehicle, indicating that the astronauts are ready to take a "walk-around" of the orbiter.

7:47 a.m. -- NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Launch Director Mike Leinbach and in-coming Center Director Bill Parsons are walking around the orbiter checking its condition. Parsons will take over at the Kennedy Space Center when the current director, Jim Kennedy, retires in January.

7:45 a.m. -- Houston Flight has signed off the communications network, saying they were handing "the keys" over to Kennedy for the next flight. Atlantis' next mission, STS-117, will be no earlier than Feb. 22, 2007, when it will return to the International Space Station.

7:37 a.m. -- Technicians are conducting the routine debris inspections.

7:28 a.m. -- The sun has risen fully at the Kennedy Space Center, as we wait for the STS-115 astronauts to emerge from the transport vehicle and possibly take a walk around the shuttle.

7:24 a.m. -- A post-landing news conference is planned for 8:30 a.m., which will be carried live on NASA TV.

7:21 a.m. -- Work will begin shortly on the runway to remove three mid-deck experiment lockers. These lockers contain three experiments returning from the International Space Station, and four experiments which were launched on Atlantis.

Did You Know?
The first Kennedy Space Center landing was for mission 41-B on Feb. 11, 1984. + Read More

7:05 a.m. -- The crew is about to exit the orbiter as they enter the Crew Transport Vehicle. The vehicle contains beds and comfortable seats so that the astronauts can receive medical checks immediately after returning to Earth. Mission Control has passed along congratulations to Commander Jett and his crew for their successful mission.

7:03 a.m. -- Commander Brent Jett can be seen through the shuttle windows as he completes his landing procedures before exiting the orbiter.

6:58 a.m. -- The sun is now shining brightly on Atlantis as the orbiter sits on the runway. The recovery operations team is working diligently to get the orbiter ready for its tow to the hangar, which will take place approximately 4 1/2 hours after landing.

6:55 a.m. -- A physician will board Atlantis to conduct a brief preliminary examination of the astronauts before the crew leaves the orbiter. The astronauts will then make preparations to disembark and enter the crew transport vehicle, which usually occurs about 45 minutes after landing.

6:41 a.m. -- As dawn is beginning to break at the Shuttle Landing Facility, the crew has been given the OK to begin powering down the onboard computers. Main gear touchdown occurred at 6:21:30 a.m. at a Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 11 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes and 35 seconds. Nose landing gear touchdown was at 6:21:36 a.m. with MET of 11 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes and 41 seconds. Wheel stop was called by Commander Brent Jett at 6:22:16 a.m. EDT with MET of 11 days, 19 hours, 7 minutes and 24 seconds.

6:39 a.m. -- When the vehicle is deemed safe of all potential hazards and free of toxic gasses, the purge and coolant umbilical access vehicle moves into position at the rear of the orbiter. Following purge and cooling system connections, the Crew Transport Vehicle moves into position adjacent to the orbiter access hatch on Atlantis' port side.

6:29 a.m. -- The crew returns to Houston on Friday, Sept. 22, where there will be a welcome home ceremony.

6:28 a.m. -- Atlantis crew reports that the side hatch and drag chutes are "safed."

6:27 a.m. -- The crew will now work through a checklist for shutting down the orbiter and "safing" the vehicle. The crew will depart the orbiter in about 45 minutes.

6:26 a.m. -- ET umbilical doors are being opened. The orbiter is in process of being "safed."

6:25 a.m. -- The recovery operations convey has arrived. This convoy consists of about 25 specifically designed vehicles or units and a team of about 150 trained personnel who assist the crew in leaving the orbiter, and who "safe" the orbiter, prepare it for towing and then tow the vehicle to the Orbiter Processing Facility. The team that recovers the orbiter is primarily composed of Kennedy Space Center personnel, whether the landing takes place at Kennedy, Edwards Air Force Base or elsewhere.

6:23 a.m. -- Atlantis has come to a stop on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center, wrapping up a 4.9 million-mile mission to resume construction of the International Space Station.

6:22 a.m. -- Wheels stop.

6:21 a.m. -- Touchdown! Gear down, drag chute deploy, nose gear touchdown, as Atlantis comes to a stop on Runway 33 just before dawn on this Florida morning.
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6:19 a.m. -- Commander Brent Jett now controlling Atlantis, and he has Runway 33 in sight.

6:18 a.m. -- Now at 3 minutes to touchdown. Twin sonic booms could be heard at the Kennedy Space Center. Pilot Chris Ferguson is now flying on the way to Runway 33, 470 miles per hour, altitude 10,000 feet, 13 miles to the runway.

6:16 a.m. -- Atlantis is on course and at proper speed as it approaches the runway. Altitude 10 miles or 55,000 feet, 32 miles to the runway.

6:15 a.m. -- At 6 minutes to touchdown, altitude 14 miles, velocity 1,300 miles per hour just under Mach 2, 53 miles to the landing site.

6:13 a.m. -- Speed 2,500 mph, altitude 20 miles.

6:12 a.m. -- Atlantis is continuing to bank at 40 degrees, velocity 3,500 mph, 160 miles to the landing site, landing at 6:21 a.m. EDT.

6:11 a.m. -- For the first time, global positioning data will be accepted by one of the computers on the shuttle. Altitude is 25 statute miles, 225 miles to the landing site. All systems looking good.

6:10 a.m. -- The orbiter is right on course for its landing on Runway 33 in Florida, at 320 miles to the landing site.

6:08 a.m. -- It's 13 minutes to touchdown and the signal is being processed through the MILA tracking station on Merritt Island, Florida.

6:07 a.m. -- The altitude is 35 miles, 14.5 minutes to touchdown, with velocity about 10,000 mph, and 700 miles from the runway.

6:06 a.m. -- At 15 minutes to touchdown at Kennedy Space Center.

6:03 a.m. -- Speed is 13,500 mph, with 1,300 miles to the landing site.

6:02 a.m. -- Speed of Atlantis is about 14,500 mph or Mach 21, with 19 minutes from landing. The vehicle is continuing its descent and is currently banking at 59 degrees, before ready to crossing over the western coast of Mexico.

5:59 a.m. -- Altitude is 45 miles, International Space Station Flight Engineer Jeff Williams reports to Mission Control in Houston on the contrail from the orbiter during Atlantis' entry into the atmosphere.

5:58 a.m. -- We are now 23 minutes to touchdown, altitude is 46 miles, with 2,600 miles to the landing site.

5:56 a.m. -- At about 25 minutes to touchdown, Atlantis is at an altitude of 47 miles and 3,100 miles from Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center, with a velocity of 16,500 mph. Atlantis is about to pass over the equator.

The orbiter is beginning its first roll reversal banking to the left at about 60 degrees. Early in this portion of reentry, the orbiter's orientation is controlled by the aft steering jets, part of the Reaction Control System. To use up energy the orbiter performs a series of four steep banks, rolling over as much as 80 degrees to one side or the other, to slow down.

5:54 a.m. -- We are now at 27 minutes to touchdown, at 3,700 miles to the landing site.

5:52 a.m. -- Atlantis' altitude is 62 miles with its speed about 17,000 mph, at approximately 4,300 miles from the landing site.

5:51 a.m. -- The orbiter is beginning to feel the effects of the atmosphere. This point in the landing phase -- called Entry Interface -- usually takes place at an altitude of about 80 miles and more than 5,000 statute miles from Kennedy Space Center.

5:46 a.m. -- Atlantis is 95 statute miles in altitude.

Did You Know?
The orbiter has two different runway options. Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility is used when the orbiter comes in from the southeast, and Runway 15 is used when it comes in from the northwest. The runway determination is largely based on wind direction and speed.

5:41 a.m. -- During reentry and landing, the orbiter is not powered by engines but instead flies like a high-tech glider, relying first on its steering jets and aerosurfaces to control the airflow around it.

5:36 a.m. -- The MILA Tracking station at KSC acquires Atlantis at about 13 minutes before landing and begins supplying controllers in Houston with voice, data and telemetry communications starting about one minute later. At 11 minutes before touchdown, the orbiter begins receiving navigation signals from the TACAN, the homing beacon and navigation signal at the Shuttle Landing Facility. As Atlantis intercepts the heading alignment circle, the first video should become available from the pilot's point-of-view video camera and the orbiter will begin following the curved approach path of the microwave scanning beam landing system. As Atlantis crosses directly overhead of the Shuttle Landing Facility and out over the Atlantic Ocean, it makes a gradual right turn toward a 7-mile final approach to Runway 33, a southeast to northwest approach.

5:34 a.m. -- In addition to the traditional runway edge and approach light system, the Shuttle Landing Facility has 16 xenon lights that produce 1 billion candlepower with an effective range of 6.2 miles. Currently illuminating Runway 33, the southeast to northwest approach, are two groups of four lights at each end of the runway.

5:26 a.m. -- Mission Control in Houston confirms a good Reaction Control System propellant dump. Atlantis' speed is slowing down to about 16,900 miles per hour now.

5:25 a.m. -- We are just 56 minutes from touchdown in Florida.

5:23 a.m. -- The crew of STS-115 will be dumping excess fuel overboard. All systems are looking good as Atlantis begins returning to Earth over the western coast of Australia.

On its landing track, Atlantis will exit the Yucatan Peninsula and cross the Gulf of Mexico, entering the Florida coast line near Naples. It will then move northeastward across the center of the state near Lake Wales and Kissimmee, then continue on to the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will cross directly over the Shuttle Landing Facility and out over the Atlantic Ocean before making a gradual right turn on the heading alignment circle (HAC) for an approach to Runway 33, which is the southeast to northwest approach.

5:17 a.m. -- Mission Control Houston reports a good deorbit burn with no trim required. Atlantis is coming home to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Runway 33. This will be the 16th night landing at Kennedy Space Center. The deorbit burn took place over the Indian Ocean.

5:15 a.m. -- Deorbit burn is in progress. We have two good engines burning as Atlantis begins its descent toward home. The burn will last for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
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5:12 a.m. -- We are just two minutes away from the deorbit burn.

5:10 a.m. -- The STS-115 crew and Atlantis are being eagerly awaited at Kennedy this morning after their very successful mission to the International Space Station. The Runway 33 lights are gleaming in readiness.

5:05 a.m. -- We are less than 10 minutes from deorbit burn of Atlantis. The orbiter is being reoriented so its tail is in the direction of travel.

Did You Know?
Kennedy Space Center is the primary end-of-mission landing site for the shuttle orbiter. The alternate site is Edwards Air Force Base in California.

4:56 a.m. -- We are 18 minutes from the deorbit burn of Atlantis' engines. Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson and Flight Engineer Dan Burbank are preparing for re-entry and landing.

4:52 a.m. -- Mission Control has given Atlantis the go for deorbit burn! The weather is forecasted to be good for the 6:21 a.m. landing with only light winds and no cloud cover. The deorbit burn will slow Atlantis by 200 mph, causing it to fall out of orbit and begin the descent for landing.

4:45 a.m. -- Commander Brent Jett was given the go ahead to close the vent doors and seal the shuttle for re-entry.

So far, the weather at Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility is still observed "go" for landing on the first opportunity.

4:37 a.m. -- We are just a little under two hours from landing and the crew was given the "go" for APU prestart.

This morning at about 2:35 a.m., Atlantis' payload bay doors were closed and locked in preparation for landing. Mission Control gave the crew a "go" to transition to the onboard computers' software package that is used for entry and landing.

The first of the crew members began to don their launch and entry suits at 3:30 a.m. The first to suit up were Commander Brent Jett and Pilot Chris Ferguson. They are followed by Dan Burbank, Joe Tanner, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Maclean.

After getting suited up, they begin seat ingress. + View seating assignments

The astronauts got the go ahead to start their "fluid loading" protocol at about 4:10 a.m. During this time, they drink large amounts of fluids to help them re-acclimate to Earth's gravity after landing. Each crew member drinks approximately 40 ounces of fluid -- about eight ounces every fifteen minutes -- and takes salt pills to help increase their fluid volume. Crew members can choose to drink chicken consume, orange-aid or water.

Astronauts Steve Lindsey and Kent Rominger are flying weather reconnaissance at the landing site in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and are relaying weather information in real time to Mission Control in Houston. They are investigating weather conditions in the area and for Runway 33, which so far looks good for landing on the first opportunity today.

Atlantis is expected to touch down on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility at 6:21 a.m. There are two landing opportunities in Florida this morning.

This morning's landing will be considered a night landing since it will take place about 48 minutes before sunrise, and will be the 21st night landing for shuttles overall. This will be the 63rd landing at Kennedy Space Center.

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