With all major mission objectives successfully completed, Atlantis' crew turned its attention to a planned return trip home, with a landing scheduled for 1:20 a.m. Central time on Monday at the Kennedy Space Center.
Shortly after 7 p.m. today, Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Scott Horowitz and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams successfully test fired Atlantis' steering jets and verified the performance of the various aerosurfaces that will be used during Atlantis' high-speed return to Earth. This checkout of Atlantis' flight control surfaces and systems is a routine activity on the day prior to landing to verify that all required systems are operating as expected. The tests were monitored by Entry flight director John Shannon from Mission Control in Houston.
As Halsell, Horowitz and Williams conducted their work from the flight deck, crewmates Mary Ellen Weber, Jim Voss, Susan Helms and Yury Usachev continued stowing away equipment used over the past nine days on orbit. Throughout the five days of docked operations with the International Space Station, the Spacehab module in Atlantis' payload bay served as a way station for more than 3,000 pounds of material transferred between the two vehicles. As the astronauts prepare for their Memorial Day landing, they will ensure that equipment housed in that module -- and in Atlantis' crew cabin -- is properly stowed and secured in place.
Midway through the crew day -- about 11 p.m. -- the astronauts will gather for a final review of entry and landing procedures, and then will continue their stowage activities. Williams and Voss, who conducted a 6 1/2 hour space walk earlier in the mission, also will pack up and stow away their spacesuits and associated hardware.
The crew will take time from tonight's entry preparations to talk with reporters located at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Russian Mission Control Center outside of Moscow in an interview scheduled to begin at 10:41 p.m.
Preliminary weather forecasts for Monday morning's landing indicate a slight possibility of rain within 30 miles of the landing site, and cross winds in excess of acceptable limits. The weather forecasts will be refined over the course of the next 24 hours in preparation for landing. For a 1:20 a.m. Central time landing at KSC, Atlantis' orbital maneuvering system engines would be fired in a deorbit burn at 12:13 a.m. In the event weather precludes a landing on the first opportunity, a second opportunity exists for a landing in Florida on the next orbit, with a deorbit burn at 1:50 a.m. resulting in a 2:56 a.m. landing.
The next mission status report will be issued at 7 a.m. Central time Sunday.
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