Having departed a rejuvenated International Space Station last night, Atlantis' crew will now spend a day checking the shuttle's equipment and stowing away gear in preparation for the trip home, aiming for a 1:20 a.m. CDT landing on Monday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Atlantis undocked at 6:03 p.m. CDT, leaving behind a pristine space station after spending five days, 18 hours and 32 minutes attached to the orbiting outpost. After flying a half-loop around the station, Pilot Scott Horowitz fired Atlantis' jets to separate from the vicinity. The crew then had a well-deserved half-day break.
This evening, Commander Jim Halsell and Horowitz will test the equipment Atlantis will use during the return home to ensure it remains in good condition. They also will test-fire the shuttle's steering jets, used to control the orientation of the spacecraft as it re-enters the atmosphere. The crew will participate in a press conference from orbit at 10:41 p.m. CDT, fielding questions from media at JSC, Kennedy and at the Russian Mission Control Center.
Atlantis is in excellent condition, as is the International Space Station, now 50 miles behind the Shuttle and moving 7 miles further with each orbit of Earth. For a touchdown in Florida at 1:20 a.m. CDT on Monday, Atlantis would fire its engines to begin a descent at 12:16 a.m. CDT Monday. A second opportunity also exists for a landing in Florida on the next orbit, with an engine firing by Atlantis to begin the descent at 1:53 a.m. CDT Monday leading to a touchdown at 2:56 a.m. CDT Monday. The long-range weather forecast for Monday at the Kennedy Space Center calls for possible showers and low clouds in the vicinity, conditions that could be unacceptable for landing.
The crew begins a sleep period at 7:11 a.m. CDT and will awaken at 3:11 p.m. to begin what is planned to be their final full day in orbit, a day devoted to the pre-landing checkouts and packing.
The next mission status report will be issued at 7 p.m. CDT.
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