Atlantis Shuttle Astronauts Hope for Morning Landing

Atlantis Shuttle Astronauts Hope for Morning Landing
Backdropped by a colorful part of Earth, space shuttle Atlantis is photographed by an Expedition 21 crew member on the International Space Station soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation on Nov. 25, 2009 during the STS-129 mission. (Image credit: NASA.)

The sevenastronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis are hoping for clear skies aboveFlorida so they can return home today.

Atlantis isdue to land at 9:44 a.m. EST (1444 GMT) to cap an 11-day delivery mission to theInternational Space Station. The weather is expected to cooperate, missionmanagers said.

?I can tellyou already, it?s looking pretty good,? said entry flight director BryanLunney.

Atlantis ispoised to land at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttle launchedon Nov. 16, after a week-long stay at the space station. Astronautsperformed three spacewalks to deliver nearly 15 tons of huge pumps, tanks,gyroscopes and other large spare parts that will keep the space station goinglong after NASA retires its three remaining space shuttles next year.

Atlantis isalso ferrying astronaut Nicole Stott back to Earth after her three-month stayon the station. Stott launched to the station in August and is the last stationcrewmember to be switched out using a NASA shuttle.

MissionControl roused the shuttle crew early Friday with the song ?Home Sweet Home? byMotley Crue, a tune selected for the entire crew.

?The wholecrew says, ?Thank you very much!?? Stott said. ?Especially this one!? Stott islooking forward to seeing her husband and young son for the first time inmonths.

Returningto Earth aboard Atlantis with Stott are shuttle commander Charlie Hobaugh,pilot Barry Wilmore and mission specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, MikeForeman and Robert Satcher, Jr. The astronauts spent the Thanksgivingholiday in space, and even managed to have the space version of a turkeydinner. ?

Bresnik isespecially hopeful for an on-time landing today and is looking forward toholding his new baby daughter Abigail for the first time. She wasborn last week just after his first spacewalk.

SPACE.comis providing complete coverage of Atlantis' STS-129 mission to theInternational Space Station with Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz and ManagingEditor Tariq Malik. Click herefor shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.

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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.