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Shuttle Astronauts Prepare for Return to Earth


*Shuttle Astronauts Prepare for Return to Earth*

STS-117 crewImage above: The STS-117 crew members aboard Space Shuttle 
Atlantis talk
with reporters. Image credit: NASA TV

During its scheduled final full day in space, the STS-117 crew prepared 
for landing. Two opportunities are available on Thursday for Space 
Shuttle Atlantis to land at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Wednesdays preparations included stowing equipment and checking out 
systems that will be used to deorbit Atlantis and begin the descent to 
Earth. Also, the seven crew members took time out of their schedules to 
talk with reporters from NBC News, ABC News and CNN Live.

The first landing opportunity available is on Orbit 202, which calls for 
the deorbit burn to occur 12:50 p.m. EDT Thursday with a 1755 UTC 
touchdown. The final opportunity of the day is on the next orbit. It 
begins with the deorbit burn at 2:25 p.m. and ends with a 3:30 p.m. 

Weather forecasts call for a possibility of thunder showers in the area. 
Flight controllers and forecasters with the Spaceflight Meteorology 
Group will continue to monitor the weather at Kennedy.

The STS-117 crew members are returning home from a construction mission 
to the International Space Station. They installed the Starboard 3 and 4 
(S3/S4) truss segment and conducted four spacewalks to activate it.

During the third spacewalk, the crew repaired an out of position thermal 
blanket on the left orbital maneuvering system pod.

Atlantis also delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer 
Clayton Anderson. He replaced astronaut Suni Williams, who is the new 
record holder for a long-duration single spaceflight for a woman. She 
arrived at the station in December with STS-116.
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