Atlantis has completed her longest ever mission in space, touching down on the concrete runway 22 at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.
In a text book return to Earth, Atlantis was flawless throughout the re-entry and landing, making the end to the mission to install the S3/S4 truss segment to the International Space Station (ISS).
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FLIGHT DAY 15 (LANDING) – LIVE
‘We just couldn’t quite get comfortable with KSC,’ said CAPCOM Tony Antonelli to Atlantis commander Rick Sturckow.
However, with great weather in California, the decision was to take the first Edwards opportunity for landing.
‘It’s great to be back,’ said Sturckow, standing in front of the gathered media, with Atlantis behind him. ‘The mission had a lot of challengers, but all the solutions worked well and we had a very successful flight, so thanks to everyone in Houston.’
**Ride home through the fire and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis on STS-115 – And now also with Discovery on STS-116 – TWO Stunning high quality 2hr, 355mb videos – from deorbit burn to post landing**
An issue with the MLS (Microwave Landing System) before launch did not appear during landing, and from initial reports, the repair to the Port OMS pod – conducted on EVA-3 – appears to have performed well.
Praise for those involved came from the top also, with NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier recognizing the many teams that are involved with launching and landing a space shuttle.
‘This is really a great and awesome mission,’ said Gerstenmaier. ‘What I’ll remember most from this mission is the teamwork involved, and I’ll remember all the things that went right on this extremely challenging mission.
‘Some of the teams that contributed to the overall success included the External Tank team – who I knew in my heart would get the tank (repaired and ready for flight). The ‘unsung’ payload team, that kept the payload batteries charged out at the pad whilst the tank was getting worked on back in the VAB.
‘The SRB booster team, who we don’t hear a lot about, but they brought the boosters back in time so that we could get a look at the video and see when the OMS Pod blanket folded back.
‘The Robotics team that designed the movement of the payload and the handoff did a great job, along with the flight controllers – who sent thousands of commands during this mission and did a great job, and the flight crew that did a great job on orbit. I can’t say enough about how well this mission went or how complicated it was, because this is exploration.
Gerstenmaier also made a point about how the issues with the International Space Station (ISS) during the mission – relating to the Russian computers that failed – was actually a positive, as they use lessons learned to guide future exploration.
‘One day we’ll go to Mars and fly a vehicle around the same size as the space station is today and we may have learnt something in the charging and grounding environment, that shows how it works or how it operates in space and that may be critical data for us for exploration,’ he added.
‘It could pay huge benefits for us in the future, so we’re really doing exploration today.’
Atlantis has now been towed off the runway and is being given post flight inspections and serving, head of being mated with the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) next week.
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