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STS-122 Mission Updates: Part 2

STS-122 Mission Updates: Part 2
The STS-122 crew and Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats applaud as ISS resident Daniel Tani joins them on stage.
(Image: © collectSPACE.com)

Atlantis Astronauts InspectShuttle
20 February 2008 10:59 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Atlantis shuttle commander StephenFrick and his crewmates surveyed their spacecraft on the runway here at NASA’sKennedy Space Center after their successfulmorning landing. They are now heading to NASA’s astronaut crew quarters torest and see their families.

“Atlantis is a great ship,” Frick said from the tarmac. “Itbrought us home without any troubles.”

The astronauts changed out of their bright orange pressure suitsinto their blue jumpsuits before inspecting Atlantis and meeting with NASAofficials after their successful spaceflight.

Today’slanding occurred on time at 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT), with Frick, shuttlepilot Alan Poindexter and mission specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim,Stanley Love, Dan Tani and German astronaut Hans Schlegel of the European SpaceAgency.

“We’re going to go now and see our families,” said Frick,adding that shuttle flights and training are tough on the families since theycan only watch the spaceflight from Earth. “We’re glad we can bring somerelease to them.”

Clickhere for SPACE.com's landing story.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Astronauts Disembarkfrom Shuttle Atlantis
20 February 2008 9:59 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – With today’s successfullanding behind them, the seven astronauts of NASA’s shuttle Atlantis havedisembarked the spacecraft and are in a crew transporter to complete today’sEarth return.

The astronauts landed successfully at 9:07 a.m. EST (1407GMT) and stepped out of the shuttle about 45 minutes later. They are expectedto take the customary walk around Atlantis to see how the 100-ton space plane handledreentry through the Earth’s atmosphere before heading back to NASA’s crewquarters here at the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA will hold a pair of press briefings, one with NASAofficials and the other with the crew themselves should the mission’s commanderStephen Frick sign off on the conference.

Clickhere for SPACE.com's landing story.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Touchdown! AtlantisLands Safely in Florida
20 February 2008 9:07 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Shuttle Atlantis and its crew ofseven astronauts has safely landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, followinga successful mission to the International Space Station and the installation ofthe European Space Agency's Columbus research laboratory. After a journey of5.3 million miles, Atlantis touched down on Runway 15 at the Shuttle LandingFacility at 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT) to conclude the STS-122 mission.

Commander Steve Frick and pilot Alan Poindexter guided theorbiter on its fiery plunge through the atmosphere and hour-long free-falldescent back to Earth, then precisely executed a series of turns and bankingmaneuvers that bled-off excess speed and slowed the 206,212 pound spaceplane for its powerless landing on the 3-mile longpaved runway at the seaside space center. All spacecraft systems performed asexpected.

Atlantis' crew included mission specialist Dan Tani, whoreturns to earth after 120 days in weightlessness as a member of the ISSExpedition 16 crew. During re-entry and descent, Tani was strapped into aspecial recumbent seat in the orbiter’s middeck, which kept him in a reclinedposition during the ride home to ease his body’s re-acclimation to gravity.

A convoy of landing support vehicles is now approachingAtlantis and technicians will soon begin to 'safe' the vehicle – purging thespacecraft of its toxic propellants – to be followed by the astronauts' exitand the traditional 'walkaround' of the spacecraft.

Atlantis' touchdown marks the 67th space shuttle landing atthe Kennedy Space Center and occurs on 46th anniversary of John Glenn'strailblazing Friendship 7 Mercury spaceflight.

Clickhere for SPACE.com's landing story.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Shuttle AtlantisFlying Over Gulf of Mexico
20 February 2008 8:55 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Atlantis is passingover the Gulf of Mexico, just west of Cuba, as it continues its long, glidingapproach to Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Touchdown on Runway 15 at theShuttle Landing Facility is scheduled for 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT). Allspacecraft systems are performing as expected.

Atlantis will soon cross over the Florida's Gulf coast inthe vicinity of Fort Myers/Naples, just to the west of Lake Okeechobee, on itscross-peninsula landing approach. Commander Steve Frick and pilot AlanPoindexter are piloting the 206,212-pound spaceplanethrough a series of turns and banking maneuvers to slow the vehicle anddissipate excess velocity in preparation for its powerless landing, culminatingwith left overhead turn of 247 degrees to precisely align with Runway 15 – thenorthwest-to-southeast runway.

Weather conditions at the landing site remain favorable withscattered clouds at about 11,000 feet over Cape Canaveral and light winds fromthe northeast at 6 knots, peaking to 9 knots – well within acceptable limits.Chief astronaut Steve Lindsey is flying the Shuttle Training Aircraft on practiceapproaches to runway 15 and relaying his observations to flight controllers.

Clickhere for the full landing preview.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Atlantis Re-EntersEarth's Atmosphere
20 February 2008 8:35 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Shuttle Atlantis is encountering theupper fringes of Earth's atmosphere, known as 'Entry Interface', at about400,000 feet (122 kilometers) above the southern Pacific Ocean as it begins itsfiery descent and a long, gliding approach to the 3-mile (5-kilometer) longrunway at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Landing on Runway 15 at the ShuttleLanding Facility is scheduled for 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT).

With the heat on its Thermal Protection System tilesbuilding to 2,500 degrees F (1,370 degrees C), Atlantis will be flying south tonorth, cutting across Central America just south of the Yucatan Peninsula, overthe Gulf of Mexico just west of Cuba and finally crossing the Florida Gulfcoast near Fort Myers, west of Lake Okeechobee on its approach to Florida'sSpace Coast. All spacecraft systems are performing as expected.

Commander Steve Frick and pilot Alan Poindexter completed a2-minute, 44-second firing of Atlantis' twin Orbital Maneuvering System enginesthat began at 7:59:22 a.m. EST (1658:49 GMT) that reduced the shuttle'svelocity sufficiently to drop it out of orbit and begin its hour-long free-falldescent back to Earth. Frick and Poindexter will pilot the 103-ton spaceplane through a series of turns and banking maneuversto slow the vehicle for its powerless touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Spaceflight Meteorology Group, based at Houston'sJohnson Space Center, is predicting thin scattered clouds at about 11,000 feet(3,350 meters) over Cape Canaveral with light winds from the northeast at 6knots (7 mph), peaking to 9 knots (10 mph) – well within acceptable limits forlanding. Astronaut Steve Lindsey is flying the Shuttle Training Aircraft onpractice approaches to Runway 15 and relaying his observations to flightcontrollers.

Clickhere for the full landing preview.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Atlantis 'Go' forFlorida Landing
20 February 2008 7:36 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA managers have cleared shuttleAtlantis for this morning’s planned 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT) landingof the shuttle at Atlantis here at the Kennedy Space Center where weatherconditions remain within acceptable limits for the spaceplane'sreturn.

Commander Steve Frick and pilot Alan Poindexter have beenthe 'Go' to initiate the de-orbit burn at 7:59:22 a.m. EST (1259:22 GMT),culminating in a landing on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.Atlantis' landing point was switched to Runway 15 after NASA chief astronautSteve Lindsey, who is reconnoitering Atlantis’ landing approach path using theShuttle Training Aircraft, reported strong tail winds at the altitude whereAtlantis would have begun its overhead turn to align with the original landingstrip.

Atlantis' Orbital Maneuvering System engines will be firedfor 2 minutes and 43 seconds, over the Indian Ocean west of the Philippines, toslow the Orbiter's velocity by about 290 feet/second to begin its fiery descentthrough Earth's atmosphere and a long, gliding approach to the 3-mile longrunway at the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will first encounter the upperfringes of the atmosphere at about 400,000 feet above the southern PacificOcean, cross Central America just south of the Yucatan Peninsula, then flyingjust west of Cuba and finally crossing the Florida coast near Fort Myers, westof Lake Okeechobee on its approach to Florida's Space Coast.

The Spaceflight Meteorology Group, based at Houston'sJohnson Space Center, is predicting just thin scattered clouds at about 11,000feet over Cape Canaveral with a tailwind of 6 knots, peaking to 7 knots – wellwithin acceptable limits for landing.

Clickhere for the full landing preview.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Roger Guillemette

Shuttle Astronauts toTake Landing Seats
20 February 2008 7:17 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. – Astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis should be strapping themselvesinto their seats for today’splanned landing at 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT) here at the Kennedy SpaceCenter.

Atlantis is nowapproaching a flyover of the northwest coast of South America as it nears thestart of Orbit 202, the final planned orbit of its 13-day mission to theInternational Space Station (ISS).

Mission Control isexpected to decide in the next 20 minutes to decide whether Atlantis is clearto fire its twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines at 7:59 a.m. EST (1259 GMT)to begin the descent back to Earth.

Clickhere for the full landing preview.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Astronauts‘Go’ for Fluid Loading
20 February 2008 7:05 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. – Mission Control has given the seven astronauts aboard NASA’s shuttleAtlantis the go ahead for “fluid loading,” which calls for the spaceflyers toguzzle large amounts of liquids to help prepare their bodies for the onset ofEarth’s gravity for today’splanned landing at 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT).

While most ofAtlantis’ seven STS-122 astronauts are sitting in seats, mission specialist DanTani is in the orbiter’s middeck in a recumbent seat, which keeps in a reclinedposition for the ride home. Tani is wrapping up a four-month mission to theInternational Space Station. The recumbent seat is designed to ease his body’sacclimation to gravity after months living in the weighlessness of space.

Clickhere for the full landing preview.

NASA is broadcasting Atlantis’ STS-122 mission live onNASA TV. You are invited tofollow the mission using SPACE.com’s NASATV, feed, which is available by clickinghere or using the button at the left.

-- Tariq Malik

Shuttle AtlantisSwitches Runway for Landing
20 February 2008 6:47 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. – NASA entry flight director Bryan Lunney has opted to swaprunways for today’splanned landing of the space shuttle Atlantis due to high tailwindsanticipated for its initial approach.

Shuttle commanderStephen Frick and pilot Alan Poindexter will now bring Atlantis down on Runway15 here at the Kennedy Space Center, which calls for a northwest to southeastapproach to the three-mile long landing strip. The shuttle was initiallytargeting a southwest approach toward Runway 33.

“Okay, we copy,KSC weather sounds reasonable,” Frick told Mission Control. “KSC 15 sounds fineto us.”

Today’s isset for 9:07 a.m. EST (1407 GMT).

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