As they continue to open their distance from the International Space Station, Atlantis' astronauts turn their attention today to Sunday's planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center.
Awakened by Mission Control at 4:13 a.m. Central time to begin what should be their final full day in space, Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Marsha Ivins, Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam will spend the day packing up equipment and hardware, and will conduct routine pre-landing checks of Atlantis' systems.
At the time of their wakeup, the five Shuttle astronauts were about 126 statute miles ahead of the International Space Station, maintaining an opening rate of about 8 statute miles every orbit of the Earth. Aboard the Station, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev are enjoying a weekend off before pressing ahead with the activation of systems in the Destiny laboratory next week, and plans for an undocking and relocation of their Soyuz vehicle from the aft docking port of the Zvezda module to the nadir port of the Zarya module next Saturday, Moscow time. With the departure of Atlantis, Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev returned to their normal operational schedule, waking up at Midnight Central time today to begin the 109th day of their flight. They will go to sleep at 3:30 p.m.
Today, Cockrell, Polansky and Ivins will test Atlantis' aerosurfaces after firing up one of the ship's three hydraulic power units. They will also check the manifold valves of their reaction control system jets, but will not perform the usual test firing of those jets since they were used extensively and flawlessly during the mission to reboost the International Space Station. The crew is scheduled to review deorbit and entry procedures prior to taking a break for lunch, then will spend their afternoon in final cabin stowage activities and exercise sessions.
The astronauts will begin their sleep period tonight 30 minutes earlier than on previous days, at 7:43 p.m. Central time.
The preliminary weather forecast Sunday for the Kennedy Space Center calls for generally favorable conditions, with the possibility of frisky winds near the three-mile long landing strip at the Cape. There are two landing opportunities available Sunday for Atlantis in Florida, at 11:53 a.m. Central time and a backup opportunity one orbit later at 1:28 p.m. Central time.
Atlantis and the International Space Station continue to orbit the Earth in excellent shape, with all systems functioning normally.
The next mission status report will be issued at 7 p.m. Central time tonight, or sooner, if developments warrant.
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