The Space Shuttle Atlantis glided to a smooth landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 4:55 p.m. CDT today, bringing the STS-86 mission to a safe and successful conclusion and returning astronaut Mike Foale to earth after 145 days in space.
Foale, who spent 134 days as a crewmember aboard the Russian space station Mir, concluded a voyage that is estimated to have covered 58,000,000 miles. His is the second longest single space flight in U.S. spaceflight history behind Shannon Lucid’s 188-day flight in 1996.
Monday’s landing came one day after clouds prevented Atlantis’ landing Sunday in Florida. Mission duration was 10 days, 19 hours and 21 minutes, and covered 4,225,000 miles. NASA Chief Astronaut Ken Cockrell, flying the Shuttle Training Aircraft on mock entry profiles at the KSC landing facility, gave a "go" for observed weather at 3:24 p.m. CDT. Moments later meteorologists gave a "go" for forecasted weather. Entry Flight Director Linda Ham quickly relayed approval to the Atlantis crew 13 minutes before the deorbit burn occurred to begin Atlantis’ reentry.
Atlantis landed on the first of two opportunities today at KSC. Two later landing opportunities were available this evening at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Today’s was the Shuttle’s 11th consecutive landing at KSC, the program’s preferred nominal landing site.
The Atlantis crew will spend tonight at Kennedy Space Center and will return to Houston Tuesday. Welcoming ceremonies at Ellington Field are tentatively planned for between 6 and 7 p.m. CDT. The schedule will be updated during the day Tuesday.
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