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Shuttle Atlantis Crew Returns Home After Successful Mission


EDWARDS, Calif. -- The space shuttle Atlantis and its crew are home after completing a 14-day journey of more than 5.8 million miles in space. Atlantisí STS-117 mission successfully increased the power capability of the International Space Station, preparing for the future delivery of European and Japanese laboratories.

Atlantisí Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Jim Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John ďDannyĒ Olivas and Sunita Williams landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Friday at 3:49 p.m. EDT.

Atlantisí crew attached the new S3/S4 solar array truss segment on the right side of the stationís backbone, deployed a new set of solar arrays, and retracted the Port 6 starboard solar array back into its box. The station has a new look with two symmetrical solar panels mounted on each end of the stationís truss.

Reilly, Olivas, Swanson and Forrester, with the help of crewmates, made four spacewalks to complete the construction tasks. They activated the truss segment and the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, which allows the new arrays to track the sun, and helped fold the Port 6 array. During the third spacewalk, the crew repaired a 4-by-6 inch raised corner of a thermal blanket on the port side Orbital Maneuvering System pod. Aerodynamic forces during Atlantisí ascent lifted the blanket.

While the crew worked in space, ground teams were troubleshooting a problem with Russian computers that help control the stationís attitude. Russian specialists worked closely with teams in the United States to recover the computer capabilities.

NASA astronaut and station Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson, who launched with the crew aboard Atlantis, remained on the station. He is scheduled to return home aboard space shuttle Discovery on a mission targeted for launch in October. Anderson replaced Williams, who set a new record for a single, long-duration spaceflight by a woman with 195 days. She arrived at the station in December 2006 aboard space shuttle Discovery.

STS-117 was the 118th space shuttle flight, the 21st flight to the station, the 28th flight for Atlantis and the first of four missions planned for 2007.

Several inspections in orbit revealed no critical damage, and Atlantisí thermal protection system was declared safe for re-entry on flight day 13. Weather concerns prevented the crew from returning to NASAís Kennedy Space Center, Fla., the primary end-of-mission landing site. In 7-10 days, Atlantis will be transported approximately 2,500 miles from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo jet. Once at Kennedy, Atlantis will be separated from the aircraft to begin immediate processing for its next flight, targeted for December 2007.

With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the next phase of International Space Station assembly. Preparations continue for space shuttle Endeavourís launch, targeted for August, on the STS-118 mission to deliver the S5 truss segment to the station.


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