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2 a.m. CDT Monday, Sept. 18, 2006
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
STS-115 MCC Status Report #18
The International Space Station is a busy place these days.

Sunday saw the departure of the space shuttle visitors who had been working from the orbiting complex the past six days with a 7:50 a.m. CDT undocking of Atlantis. Hours later, three more explorers launched toward the station in a Soyuz spacecraft.

Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin and spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari lifted off at 11:09 p.m. CDT Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

They are expected to arrive at the station early Wednesday. They will begin nearly nine days of handover activity as Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin prepare for their own six-month stay. Ansari, visiting the station as part of a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency, will return to Earth with Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams. European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Reiter will remain onboard as part of Expedition 14.

Traveling about 50 miles behind the station, the Atlantis crew -- Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson and Mission Specialists Dan Burbank, Joe Tanner, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve MacLean -- woke at 10:15 p.m. to “Rocky Mountain High.” It was played for Tanner.

The crew will focus today on the final inspection of the shuttle’s reinforced-carbon-carbon surfaces on the wing leading edges and nose cap. Ferguson, Burbank and MacLean will use the shuttle’s robotic arm to get a final look at those areas, ensuring no critical damage may have occurred since their arrival in space. Aside from a few other minor tasks it will be a light-duty day. Atlantis is prepared for its landing Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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