Friday, November 27, 2009

Atlantis crew set to return today

Atlantis and its crew are due back at Kennedy Space Center at 9:44 a.m. today.

Mission managers will be keeping close tabs on weather, but the forecast looks good.

However, if conditions don't cooperate to bring the orbiter home to the Space Coast today, the crew will remain in orbit another 24 hours.

NASA has decided not to activate backup landing sites at Edwards Air Force Base in California or at White Sands in New Mexico today.

Here are some key milestones ahead of the planned 9:44 a.m. landing that we'll be watching for:

-1:28 a.m.: Atlantis crew gets the wake-up call.
-4:43 a.m.: Crew members begin preparations for landing. The orbiter's onboard computers are configured for entry
-5:56 a.m.: Mission Control gives the "go" and the crew closes the payload bay doors. This means that NASA thinks a landing attempt is possible.
-7:14 a.m.: Starting with the commander and pilot, the flight crew members don their orange launch and entry suits.
-7:37 a.m.: Atlantis crew begins strapping into their seats
-8:27 a.m.: Final go/no go for deorbit burn.
-8:36 a.m.: Deorbit burn begins. This is the point of no return.

If weather doesn't cooperate for the first landing attempt, Atlantis has a second opportunity at KSC scheduled for 11:19 a.m.

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