Shuttling Home: Atlantis & Crew Due Home Wednesday; Clearing Space for Satellite Shootdown
The distinctive twin sonic booms as Space Shuttle Atlantis streaked across the Florida sky told residents that the STS-122 crew was close to home. The textbook landing ended a 5.3 million mile expedition, the ferrying of a replacement astronaut, and the delivery of the Columbus module to the International Space Station.
UPDATE 6 a.m. CST Wed, Feb. 20.
With a successful mission completed,
the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis is checking off the timelines
and tasks before a scheduled 9:07 a.m. EST landing at Kennedy Space
Center in Florida.
The team, including NASA astronaut Dan Tani,
returning after an extended stay at the International Space Station, is
scooting home before the U.S. attempts to shoot down a failing
satellite. The first attempt could occur tonight off Hawaii, where a
designated "no-fly" zone has already been declared. NASA officials
wanted to clear space before that attempt and signalled the shuttle
The shuttle has four landing opportunities in
Florida and at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Here's the
schedule for all four.
ORIGINAL article from Tues. Feb. 19
As the U.S. government restricts air space near Hawaii Wednesday night, the crew of the Space Station Atlantis is preparing to come home to Kennedy Space Center Wednesday as early as 9:07 a.m. EST. Here's a mission wrap-up, along with details of vernier thruster problems and data about the falling spy satellite that could be shot down as early as Wednesday night, although that timing has not been officially confirmed.
After a highly successful mission to the International Space station, the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis is heading home to Kennedy Space Center. NASA is staffing both the KSC Shuttle Landing Strip and Mojave Desert facilities at Edwards Air Force Base in California in a bid to get Atlantis home before the U.S. Navy attempts to shoot down a crippled spy satellite.
Engineers are monitoring, but are not concerned about, a circuit failure that dropped heat to four after venier thrusters. Those thrusters power the Reaction Control System (RCS), which maneuvers the orbiter during small in-flight corrections.
The temperature on one of the thrusters dropped to 40 degrees, causing concern about possible freezing of lines or systems in that area. Even if one or two of the thrusters should totally fail--highly unlikely--the system has built-in redundancy because the crew can employ the thrusters in a variety of combinations.