Thursday, May 27, 2010

Atlantis and the STS-132 landed Safely in Florida

With Commander Ken Ham and Pilot Tony Antonelli at the controls, space shuttle Atlantis descended to its final planned landing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The STS-132 crew concluded its successful mission to the International Space Station when the shuttle touched down at 8:48 a.m. EDT.

The crew began its mission May 14 and arrived at the station May 16.

Using the station’s robotic arm, Mission Specialists Piers Sellers and Garrett Reisman added Rassvet, the Russian Mini-Research Module 1, to the station. The new module will host a variety of biotechnology and biological science experiments and fluid physics and educational research.

During three spacewalks Reisman, along with Mission Specialists Mike Good and Steve Bowen, added a backup high-data-rate antenna to the station and a tool platform to Dextre, the robot-like special purpose dexterous manipulator. They removed and replaced six 375-pound batteries on the station’s P6 truss segment.

STS-132 is the 132nd shuttle mission and the 34th mission to visit the space station. The next mission, STS-133, is slated to launch in September.

"It was smooth as silk," STS-132 Commander Ken Ham said of Atlantis' entry and landing. "We were clearly riding in the middle of a fireball, and it was spectacular. The windows, all of them, were bright, brilliant orange. One of the neatest things was when we flew right into orbital sunrise."

This was the final scheduled flight for Atlantis, which has logged more than 120 million miles during its 25 years of service. The orbiter will go through standard prelaunch preparations as the "launch-on-need" vehicle for Endeavour's STS-134 mission. That flight currently is targeted for November.

"Atlantis treated us very well. She was just an incredible ship," Mission Specialist Michael Good said, citing the precision of the deorbit burn as an example of Atlantis' performance. "The engines had it trimmed out to within .01 of what the burn was supposed to be."

The all-veteran astronaut crew will head home to Houston on Thursday. The public is invited to attend the welcome ceremony for the crew Thursday at 4 p.m. CDT at Ellington Field's NASA Hangar 276.

"We're thrilled, because we accomplished the mission that was put in front of us," Ham said. He explained that in addition to the technical objectives of the 12-day mission, the astronauts also wanted to enjoy themselves and share their enthusiasm of spaceflight with the world.

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