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ISS/Shuttle Sep


Sunday September 17 11:54 PM ET
Atlantis Crew Departs Space Station 

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Space shuttle Atlantis (news - web sites) and its 
astronauts gently pulled away from the international space station late 
Sunday after a short but productive stay.

The spacecraft parted high above Russia, a few minutes late because of minor 
computer trouble. They had flown together eight days.

``You did a fantastic job,'' Mission Control radioed once the doors to the 
space station were closed earlier in the day, ``and we know the Expedition 
One crew will really appreciate all the effort you put in getting their new 
home set up.''

Expedition One - the first permanent space station crew - is scheduled to 
blast off Oct. 30 aboard a Russian rocket and arrive at the complex two days 
later for a four-month mission.

During their five days inside, the shuttle astronauts stocked the space 
station with more than 6,000 pounds of food, clothes, soap, toothbrushes, ear 
plugs, pens, notebooks, trash bags, radios, vacuum cleaners, power converters 
and other gear.

The seven men installed the toilet, oxygen generator and treadmill in the new 
Russian-built living quarters and, during an excursion outside last Monday, 
hooked up power and TV cables. They also plugged in fresh batteries and 
boosted the station into a 240-mile-high orbit, about 14 miles higher than 

``I hope all of the rest of the assembly flights will be 50 percent as 
successful as this flight has been,'' said flight director Wayne Hale. ``We 
have not only done everything we set out to do, but we had to scramble around 
and find even more things to do because everything went so well.''

Commander Terrence Wilcutt and his crew spent several hours backing out of 
the space station on Sunday morning, making sure nothing unwanted was left 
behind and that all the lights and other pertinent equipment were turned off 
in the three modules.

They couldn't resist adding a few personal touches. ``Scooter slept here!'' 
read a note left on the wall; Scooter is pilot Scott Altman.

In all, 11 hatches were sealed. Some of those doors will be opened again in 
just a few weeks when another shuttle crew arrives to install the station's 
first piece of truss, or girder. The truss will serve as a conduit for power 
cables and hold gyroscopes for motion control.

Discovery is scheduled to blast off on this 100th shuttle flight on Oct. 5, 
although the date could change because of Tropical Storm Gordon.

NASA (news - web sites) scrambled over the weekend to protect the Kennedy 
Space Center against the approaching storm. With Gordon expected to stay 
north of Cape Canaveral, officials decided to keep Discovery on its seaside 
pad but warned launch preparations could fall behind.

The storm should not interfere, at least, with Atlantis' return to Earth 
early Wednesday, Hale said. All of the navigation equipment that was removed 
from the shuttle landing strip, as a precaution against the storm, should be 
back in place well before then.

``It's always risky to look at weather forecasts that far out,'' Hale said, 
``but the weatherman tells us that following the storm, weather conditions in 
Florida should be pretty good.''

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