Atlantis' crew turned its attention to checking shuttle systems and packing up equipment for the return home scheduled for 2:56 a.m. CDT, Wednesday back at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The weather forecast calls for scattered clouds, a light sea-breeze, and only a slight chance of rain off the coast.
Winding down from the hectic pace of International Space Station outfitting, which saw the crew move more than 6,600 pounds of supplies into the station, the crew of five astronauts and two cosmonauts spent much of today tearing down their campsite. They’ll turn in for one last night in space about 10 this morning and receive a wakeup call from Mission Control at 5:46 this afternoon.
STS-106 Commander Terry Wilcutt and Pilot Scott Altman tested the systems that will be used during the return home, ensuring that all 44 of Atlantis’ thruster jets and flight control surfaces are in good working order.
The packing and housekeeping chores high on the list of priorities included deactivating systems in the pressurized Spacehab module that served as a cargo hold for the equipment and supplies transferred to the station, and putting away other equipment used in the rendezvous, docking, space walk, undocking and fly around of the previous week.
With weather conditions favorable in Florida, and nearly perfect in California at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base, managers elected to aim for a landing in Florida only, Wednesday. Edwards would be considered for Thursday, however.
For a touchdown on the 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility runway on the first opportunity tomorrow, Atlantis would fire its engines to begin a descent at 1:50 a.m. A second opportunity to land in Florida starts with a deorbit burn at 3:27 a.m. and ends with Atlantis touching down at 4:33 a.m. CDT.
Atlantis remains in excellent shape as it leads the International Space Station by 140 statute miles. That distance increases by 5 miles with each orbit of the Earth.
The next mission status report will be issued about 7 p.m. today.
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