Shuttle Mission Going 'Great,' Astronauts Say

HOUSTON --Astronauts aboard NASA?s shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station(ISS) said Tuesday that their joint mission is going well, despite a busy paceand a few minor glitches.

?Wecouldn?t be happier with the mission so far,? veteran spaceflyerRick Sturckow, commander of Atlantis? STS-117 mission to the ISS, told CBSNews during a series of interviews on NASA TV. ?It?s going really great.?

Since theirarrival at the ISS Sunday, Sturckow and his six STS-117 crewmates haveswapped out one astronaut on the station?s Expedition 15 crew, installed a17.5-ton addition to the orbital laboratory?s starboard framework and, onTuesday, unfurled a newpair of new solar arrays.

?That put apretty good chunk of our mission behind us,? Sturckow told CBS.

Aboard theISS and Atlantis, the astronauts have worked through a false fire alarm,attitude control issues stemming from a Russian computer system glitch, andwill later repaira torn heat shield blanket on the orbiter. But the issues have not kept theSTS-117 astronauts from continuing their mission to deliver new starboard solararrays and trusses to the ISS.

?When wefirst saw it, I don?t think we were too concerned and we?re still not,? Struckow told KTSM TV in El Paso, Texas of Atlantis?damaged thermal blanket and added that the planned repair is worth it. ?Theshuttle?s an expensive piece of gear and it?s right toprotect it.?

Today, STS-117 mission specialists Steven Swanson and Patrick Forrester are dueto stage the second of four planned spacewalks to outfit the station with thenew trusses and solar wings.

AstronautClayton Anderson, who launched towards the ISS aboard Atlantis to join thestation?s Expedition 15 crew, said he was awed by the station as he learns the ropesfrom fellow spaceflyer SunitaWilliams.

?Justlooking out the window at the station, with Sun shining off the arrays andseeing all the vistas that we can see, it?s just incredible for me,? saidAnderson, adding that Williams has been offering him sage advice about lifeaboard the ISS. ?She?s been trying to teach me all the tricks of the trade andwhere all the cubby holes on the station are, so it?s fun.?

Anderson isreplacing Williams as an Expedition 15 flight engineer. Williams, who has livedaboard the ISS since December 2006, will return to Earth aboard Atlantis.

?I?m reallygoing to miss it,? Williams said of the ISS. ?It?s a wonderful place to workand a wonderful place to live.?

Atlantismission specialist Danny Olivas, who is making the first spaceflight andspacewalks of his astronaut career during the STS-117 mission, said the shuttle?sJune 8 launch into space outclassed any amusement park ride on Earth.

?It?sreally a tremendous feeling. A lot of shaking, a lot of vibration, it was justreally awesome,? Olivas told television reporters from his hometown of El Paso,Texas, adding that the liftoff and his firstspacewalk on Monday made some deep personal impressions. ?I think I?veburned some very memorable memories into my brain. I?m not going to lose thosefor some time.?

NASA is broadcastingthe space shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates's video feed.

  • Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
  • STS-117 Power Play: Atlantis Shuttle Crew to Deliver ISS Solar Wings
  • Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.