Atlantis' astronauts are hoping that the third time will be the charm today as an improving weather forecast at the Kennedy Space Center holds hope for the Shuttle's return to the Florida spaceport following two consecutive days of weather related wave-offs.
The Kennedy Space Center remains the primary target for today's landing, with two opportunities to bring Atlantis and its crew home. The initial forecast for today shows generally acceptable conditions for landing, with a slight concern for some clouds produced by offshore sea breeze and possible crosswinds at the three-mile long landing strip. The first opportunity for the day would call for a deorbit burn at 10:21 a.m. Central time, resulting in a landing at 11:27 a.m. Central time. The second opportunity would begin with a deorbit burn at 11:56 a.m. Central time with a landing at 1:02 p.m.
Landing opportunities are also available on the following two orbits at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Weather conditions on the West Coast are marginal, however, with the possibility of rain within 30 miles of the landing site. The first of the Edwards' opportunities would call for the deorbit burn at 1:27 p.m. Central time and a landing at 2:33 p.m. The final opportunity of the day to Edwards would involve a deorbit burn at 3:04 p.m. and a landing at 4:09 p.m.
The White Sands Space Harbor at Northrup Strip in New Mexico has three landing opportunities available as well, and may be considered as a possible landing site, although all efforts will focus on returning Atlantis either to Florida or California. Entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain intends to employ the three best opportunities of the day in an effort to bring the two-week flight to a close.
Atlantis has enough propellent and consumables to stay aloft until at least Wednesday, if necessary.
The STS-98 astronauts - Ken Cockrell, Mark Polansky, Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones - were awakened at 3:13 a.m. to the sounds of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash, as they prepared for their return trip to Earth.
Aboard the International Space Station, now about 1,100 miles behind Atlantis, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev started a busy work week today preparing for Saturday's relocation of their Soyuz vehicle. The crewmembers will deactivate key ISS systems early Saturday morning, then climb into their pressure suits to board the Soyuz capsule for a 40-minute maneuver in which the Soyuz will be undocked from its current location on the aft end of the Zvezda module and redocked to the nadir port of the Zarya module. That will make room for a Progress resupply vehicle due to arrive later this month.
All systems on board Atlantis are performing well and ready to support today's landing efforts as the orbiter continues to circle the Earth at an altitude of 237 statute miles.
The next mission status report will be issued after Atlantis lands, or as mission events warrant.
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