With clear, crisp weather back home, space shuttle Atlantis aimed for an on-time landing Friday morning in Florida to wrap up an 11-day mission to the International Space Station.
Mission Control told the seven astronauts that no one could remember such clear landing conditions at NASA’s touchdown site in Cape Canaveral. The temperature was in the 50s at dawn.
“The view that we have ... looks absolutely stellar,” Mission Control radioed. “I think you’ll be pleased upon arrival.”
Atlantis’ astronauts spent a week stockpiling the space station. They delivered big spare parts and performed three spacewalks to install the equipment and carry out maintenance.
The pumps, gyroscopes and storage tanks should keep the outpost in business for another five to 10 years, long after Atlantis and the two other shuttles are retired.
Crew member Nicole Stott is returning to Earth after spending three months at the space station. Friday marked her 91st day in orbit. Ms. Stott said she can’t wait to see her husband and 7-year-old son, who were at Cape Canaveral waiting for her early on Friday. She also said she wants pizza and icy cola.
Fellow astronaut Randolph Bresnik had even bigger plans: to hold his infant daughter for the first time.
Abigail Mae Bresnik was born last weekend right after her father took his first spacewalk. But he’ll have to wait until Saturday to see her. Bresnik’s wife, Rebecca, stayed home in Houston with Abigail and 3-year-old big brother Wyatt.
Atlantis — which is bringing back broken equipment from the space station’s water-recycling system — will have logged 4.5 million miles and circled Earth 171 times by flight’s end.
This was Atlantis’ penultimate mission. Only five shuttle flights remain, all to the space station next year. Station construction will essentially end at that point, so NASA used the trip to send up as many hefty spare parts as possible. None of the other visiting spacecraft — from Russia, Japan and Europe — can carry so much in a single load.
Atlantis, which delivered nearly 15 tons of gear, left the space station 86 percent complete.
NASA’s next shuttle flight is in February. Endeavour will deliver a full-fledged module to the space station, complete with a cupola for prime Earth gazing with its domed chamber has seven windows.
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