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NASA NEWS

4 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

09.20.06
STATUS REPORT: STS-115-23

STS-115 MCC Status Report #23

Managers today cleared the Space Shuttle Atlantis for a return to Earth on Thursday following a day of inspections of the spacecraft's exterior.

Atlantis is now aimed toward a landing that will begin with a deorbit engine firing at 4:14 a.m. CDT and culminate in a touchdown at 5:21 a.m. CDT at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The astronauts would close the shuttle's payload bay doors in preparation for the landing at about 1:44 a.m. CDT. A backup opportunity for landing would begin with a deorbit engine firing by the shuttle at 5:51 a.m. CDT leading to a touchdown at 6:57 a.m. CDT.

The weather is forecast to be acceptable for landing at Kennedy, with few clouds and light winds.

The astronauts performed televised inspections early this morning of the shuttle's heat shield, nose, tail, payload bay, wings and other areas using the robotic arm and a boom extension. Engineers found no issues of concern during the survey.

A shim and a spacer piece that had been protruding from thermal tiles on Atlantis earlier in the mission were found to be missing during the inspection. But it is not known whether one of them was the item seen floating near Atlantis in video on Tuesday. Atlantis' astronauts began a sleep period at 12:45 p.m. CDT. They will awaken at 8:45 p.m. CDT.

The new International Space Station Expedition 14 crew, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Soyuz Commander and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, along with spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari, docked to the complex at 12:21 a.m. CDT. They opened hatches at 3:34 a.m. CDT and were greeted by Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter.

The next STS-115 mission status report will be issued after landing, or earlier if events warrant.

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