Atlantis' astronauts were awakened just before 4 a.m. Central time Sunday, ready for a homecoming to the Kennedy Space Center later today, weather permitting.
With the U.S. Laboratory Destiny operating in excellent shape as the newest addition to the International Space Station, Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones began to perform a series of procedures which will lead to the firing of the Shuttle's braking rockets late this morning to begin their hour-long reentry back to Earth.
There are two landing opportunities available today for Atlantis' return to Florida. The first begins with a deorbit firing of the Shuttle's orbital maneuvering system engines on Orbit 169 at 10:47 a.m. Central time, culminating in a landing at 11:53 a.m. Central time on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center. A backup opportunity one orbit later starts with a deorbit burn at 12:22 p.m., resulting in a 1:28 p.m. Central time landing. Weather forecasts for today are generally favorable with flight controllers watching the possibility of gusty winds in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Cape. The backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base, California was not called up for landing support today, but likely would be activated for backup landing support Monday if Atlantis' landing is blocked by the weather.
A landing on the first opportunity of the day would wrap up a journey of 4.4 million miles for the astronauts and the first Shuttle mission of the year.
Atlantis' astronauts begin their deorbit preparations at 6:50 a.m. today, configuring computers for reentry, deactivating the galley and installing seats on the flight deck and middeck. The payload bay doors should be closed at 8:07 a.m., and a final "go-no go" decision for the deorbit burn from Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain is expected about 10:30 a.m.
When Atlantis' astronauts were awakened at 3:43 a.m. today, they were approximately 408 statute miles in front of the International Space Station. On board the Station, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev will relax today as they enjoy another day of light activities. The Expedition One crew began its day at Midnight this morning and will go to sleep about 3:30 p.m. This is the 110th day in space for the Expedition One crew and its 108th day aboard the orbiting outpost.
Atlantis continues to orbit the Earth in excellent shape at an altitude of 237 statute miles as its astronauts gear up for landing.
The next mission status report will be issued after landing, or as mission events warrant.
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