NASA missioncontrollers are once again in control of the International Space Station (ISS)as the manned spaceflight facility resumes normal operations after HurricaneRita.
Russian and NASA ISSflight controllers returned primary mission operations to mission controllersat Johnston Space Center in Houston, Texas at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) Monday,NASA spokesperson Kylie Clem told SPACE.com.
"People arecoming in today and starting to restart equipment," she said of other JSCpersonnel.
JSC, NASA'smanned spaceflight hub for its ISS and space shuttle operations, shut down lastweek as Hurricane Rita approached the Texas Gulf Coast. Primary space stationcontrol was transferred to NASA's Houston support group and Russian ISS flight controllers in Korolev, outsideMoscow, for the first time since October 2002.
Thehurricane weakened to a Category 3 storm before making landfall on thesouthwestern coast of Louisiana. The storm's arrival was a near miss for NASA -earlier projections predicted Rita's landfall at nearby Galveston, Texas - andcaused only minordamage to the spaceflight center.
"It seemsto have dodged a big one and come through pretty unscathed," NASA spokespersonDean Acosta said of JSC, adding that space agency chief Michael Griffin wasapprised of the damage at the site Monday.
NASAofficials said it is still too early to estimate the cost of Rita's damage atJSC, the space agency's third center to suffer hurricane-related damage thismonth.
NASA's NewOrleans-based Michoud Assembly Facility, where engineers build space shuttleexternal tanks, and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi also braced againstRita's arrival. The storm marked the second hurricane to batter the facilitiesafter Hurricane Katrina damaged bothsites three weeks ago.
Michoud reopenedMonday for limited work, while inspectors reported no damage at the Stennisfacility, home to NASA's shuttle engine tests, NASA officials said.
Meanwhile,up in space, the two astronauts aboard the ISS entered the last visitor-freeweek of their mission.
ISS Expedition11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips have livedand worked aboard the space station in mid-April 2006, and are nearing the endof their six-month mission. Their relief crew, Expedition12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev, are set tolaunch toward the station with spacetourist Gregory Olsen on Sept. 30 at 11:54 p.m. EDT (0354 Oct. 1 GMT).
Krikalevand Phillips will return to Earth with Olsen on Oct. 10, and are slated to landon the steppes of Kazakhstan at 9:12 p.m. EDT (0112 Oct. 11 GMT).
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