All Appears Ready For Shuttle Return
Ah, the staple. It's very small and
it can be very sharp, and it can be deployed in such a manner -
like in space - to fasten down a loose corner of a shuttle thermal
blanket to allow the heat shield to do its job and permit the crew
of STS-117 to return home Thursday.
And, to quote Staples, the office retailing giant, "That was
NASA mission managers have given the thumbs up to Shuttle
Atlantis being cleared to land at the Kennedy Space Center
Thursday. An additional inspection will be conducted before the
The mission might still be extended, however, as engineers in
Moscow and Houston work to determine why the computer system on the
Russian side of the ISS crashed last week. As ANN reported, the computers were
restored Friday when cosmonauts bypassed a circuit board and
switched on four of the six computers, allowing crucial systems to
Work Continue Aboard ISS
But before the trip home, there remains much work to do. Mission
Specialists Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson continued to
activate the ISS's new truss segment during STS-117's fourth
six-hour spacewalk Sunday.
Other tasks scheduled for the spacewalk included the
installation of a computer network cable onto the Unity module and
the removal of a Global Positioning System antenna. The two were
also slated to complete the installation of a piece of debris
shielding on the Destiny laboratory.
Sunday's excursion marked the 88th spacewalk devoted to station
assembly and maintenance.
And Another Record Achievement
Astronaut Suni William broke the
11-year female time-in-space endurance record Saturday, surpassing
Shannon Lucid's mark of 188 days, 4 hours set in 1996.
Williams began her record-setting flight when she launched with
the crew of STS-116 in December 2006 and remained onboard the
station as a member of the Expedition 14 crew and then joined the
Expedition 15 crew in April. Her life in space will come to a close
when she returns to Earth aboard Atlantis with the STS-117
Although only her first spaceflight, Williams also became the
record-holder for most hours outside a spacecraft by a female by
completing four spacewalks during Expedition 15 for a total time of
29 hours, 17 minutes.
"It was very exciting to watch her spacewalks and to watch her
accumulate more spacewalk time than any other female in the
universe," said Lucid, who set the previous female space duration
record while flying aboard the Russian Mir Space Station.
"These [long-term] flights are providing the needed confidence
so that some day in the near future we can depart low-Earth orbit
and head on out to Mars."
During her stay on orbit, Williams worked with experiments
across a wide variety of fields, including human life sciences,
physical sciences and Earth observation, as well as education and
Some of the experiments give scientists critical insight into
the effects of weightlessness on humans while others demonstrate
ways to prevent the effects already known, like muscle and bone
In addition to rigorous exercise, Williams also collected and
stored her blood while in space to add to an ongoing study on
nutrition, another key element of living in space for long periods
The results of this study may impact nutritional requirements
and food systems developed for future ventures in space.
"Her mission has been critically important to our overall space
program," said NASA Astronaut Eileen Collins, another female
pioneer in spaceflight. Collins became the first woman to command a
spaceflight mission during the STS-93 mission on Space Shuttle
"She truly is a space marathoner who shows young women
everywhere that there's a place in the space program for them."
If her stay in space concludes as scheduled with her return on
Atlantis on Thursday, June 21, Williams will have flown a total of
194 days in space.