Atlantis Undocks from Space Station, Conducts Shuttle Inspections
The crew flying the space shuttle Atlantis starts preparations for their return to Earth, conducting an inspection of the shuttle's heat shield after ending a seven-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS).After undocking from the International Space Station on Sunday, the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis, which is on its final mission, began a final inspection of Atlantis' heat shield. The crew of six will also pack up spacesuits and have some time off, the space agency NASA reported. Shuttle mission STS-132 will be followed by two last shuttle missions, before the program is mothballed forever.
Mission Specialist Steve Bowen and fellow spacewalker Mission Specialist Mike Good started their day by cleaning up the spacesuits and stowing them, after the crew awoke to the theme music for the stop-motion animated television show "Wallace and Gromit." "Thank you to my family, Debbie and the boys; it's another great day in space," Bowen said.
Commander Ken Ham, Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman and Piers Sellers will work on inspection activities, again using the shuttle's robotic arm, the 50-foot-long orbiter boom and its cameras to scan Atlantis' nose and starboard, or right, wing. They will break for lunch and then finish the task by scanning the port wing, while exercise sessions will be interspersed throughout the day for each of the crewmembers to help prepare them for their return to Earth's gravity Wednesday. NASA reported crew sleep is scheduled for 3:20 p.m.
A cable snag at the end of the orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS) had prevented a full inspection after launch. Spacewalkers cleared the snag, so the arm should be fully operational Monday. Other imagery and engineering data was used to fill in the gaps in the post-launch inspection. On Tuesday, the crew will focus on cabin stowage and checkout of Atlantis' reaction control system and its flight control surfaces. Landing at Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 7:48 a.m. Wednesday, NASA reported.
The uncoupling from the ISS ended a seven-day stay that saw the addition of a new station module, replacement of batteries and resupply of the orbiting outpost. During three spacewalks, astronauts added a backup high-data-rate antenna to the station and a tool platform to Dextre, the robotlike special-purpose dexterous manipulator. They also removed and replaced six 375-pound batteries on the station's P6 truss segment. Sellers and Reisman installed Rassvet, the Russian Mini-Research Module 1 brought to the station by Atlantis, on the Zarya module.
The joint operations were a good example of friendship and professionalism, station Commander Oleg Kotov said after summarizing the week's accomplishments in the farewell ceremony. Commander Ham responded with equally kind words. "We are one happy shuttle crew-happy because of all of your efforts too. We were a 12-person crew that operated together."