Shuttle Crew Completes Stay At Station
ANN REALTIME REPORTING
06.19.07 1345 EDT: It's been fun... really... but we have
to be going now. Tuesday morning, the space shuttle Atlantis
wrapped up an almost nine-day, drama-filled stay at the
International Space Station when it undocked from the orbital
outpost, in preparation for the return trip to Earth.
NASA reports the two spacecraft parted ways at 1042 EDT, as they
flew over the Coral Sea northeast of Australia. After Pilot Lee
Archambault backed the orbiter 450 feet from the station, he
performed a full fly-around to allow crew members to collect video
and imagery of the station and its newly expanded solar wings. He
completed the final separation engine burn at 1228.
Later in the day, Archambault and Mission Specialists Patrick
Forrester and Steven Swanson will use the shuttle robot arm and the
50-foot long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a late
inspection of the thermal protection system.
The crew will spend Wednesday preparing for landing. Atlantis'
first landing opportunity is at 1354 EDT Thursday at Florida's
Kennedy Space Center -- bringing an end to what had been a
problematic visit to the ISS.
While the crew was able to successfully continue the on-orbit
construction of the station, with the installation of the Starboard
3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segment, the mission will likely be
remembered most for the series of problems experienced during the
shuttle's stay at the station.
As ANN reported, a number of
Russian computers failed onboard the station last week, shortly
after spacewalkers connected power from a new solar array. Those
computers control the station's orientation in orbit, as well as
oxygen production onboard the ISS.
After some tense moments -- including talk of the possibility of
abandoning the station -- Russian engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and
Oleg Kotov were able to restore functionality Friday, after the
problem was traced to a faulty secondary power switch.
Atlantis was originally scheduled to return Tuesday, but NASA
extended the shuttle's mission by two days to provide an additional
margin of safety for the ISS crew during the computer snafu. The
extra time also allowed a fourth spacewalk to the mission, so
astronauts could repair a torn thermal blanket atop the orbiter's
port orbital maneuvering pod.
STS-117 also delivered a new station crew member, Flight
Engineer Clayton Anderson. He replaced astronaut Suni Williams, who
is the new record holder for a long-duration single spaceflight for
a woman. She arrived at the station in December with STS-116, and
is riding back from orbit onboard Atlantis.