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NASA Welcomes Space Shuttle Crew Back to Earth


> Sept. 21, 2006
> Grey Hautaluoma
> Headquarters, Washington 
> 202-358-0668
> Tracy Young
> Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
> 321-867-2468 
> The Space Shuttle Atlantis and its crew are home after a 12-day 
> journey of more than 4.9 million miles in space. The mission, 
> STS-115, succeeded in restarting assembly of the International Space 
> Station. The crew delivered and installed the massive P3/P4 truss, an 
> integral part of the station's backbone, and two sets of solar arrays 
> that will eventually provide one quarter of the station's power. 
> Atlantis' Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson and mission 
> specialists Joe Tanner, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Dan Burbank, 
> and Steve MacLean, a Canadian astronaut, landed Thursday, Sept. 21, 
> at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at 6:21 a.m. EDT. After 
> landing, Jett told Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center, 
> "Thanks, Houston. It's nice to be back. It was a great team effort, 
> so I think assembly's off to a good start."
> The flight was the first in a series of missions that will be among 
> the most complex in space history. Atlantis delivered the first major 
> new component to the station since 2002 and laid the groundwork for 
> upcoming station assembly missions. 
> STS-115 is one of the most photographed shuttle missions ever, with 
> more than 100 high-definition, digital, video and film cameras 
> documenting the launch and climb to orbit. Data from these images, as 
> well as station and shuttle crew inspection, helped to clear 
> Atlantis' thermal protection system for return only two and a half 
> days after launch. 
> Tanner, Piper, Burbank and MacLean, with the help of crewmates, made 
> three spacewalks that completed truss installation, enabled solar 
> arrays to be deployed and prepared an important radiator for later 
> activation. They also installed a signal processor and transponder 
> that transmits voice and data to the ground and performed other tasks 
> to upgrade and protect the station's systems. 
> A new procedure called a "camp out" was implemented, in which 
> astronauts slept in the Quest airlock prior to their spacewalks. The 
> process shortens the "prebreathe" time during which nitrogen is 
> purged from the astronauts' systems and air pressure is lowered so 
> the spacewalkers avoid the condition known as the bends. On each of 
> the three spacewalks, the astronauts were able to perform more than 
> the number of scheduled activities.
> The astronauts performed unprecedented robotics work. They used the 
> shuttle's arm in a delicate maneuver to hand off the school bus-sized 
> truss to the station's arm. The 45-foot truss weighs 35,000 pounds. 
> The arrays at the end of the truss extended to their full 240-foot 
> wingspan once they unfurled on flight day six. The astronauts also 
> moved the station's robotic arm to a position where it will assist in 
> the next phase of station construction. 
> After Atlantis undocked from the station, it did the first full fly 
> around of the facility since prior to the Space Shuttle Columbia 
> accident. The maneuver helped ground crews get a better perspective 
> on the station's environment and overall exterior health. 
> Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a call during the mission 
> to astronaut Steve MacLean to congratulate him on being the first 
> Canadian to operate Canadarm2, the station's Canadian-built robotic 
> arm.
> After undocking, the Atlantis crew participated in a first-ever 
> three-way call with the Expedition 13 crew aboard the International 
> Space Station and the three crew members of the Soyuz spacecraft on 
> its way to the station. All 12 astronauts in space at that time were 
> able to have a conversation.
> With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the next 
> stage of International Space Station assembly. Preparations continue 
> for Space Shuttle Discovery's launch, targeted for mid-December, on 
> the STS-116 mission to deliver an additional truss segment and a 
> cargo module to the station. Discovery will also do extensive work on 
> the station's electrical and cooling systems. 
> For more on the STS-115 mission and the upcoming STS-116 mission, 
> visit: 
> http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle
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