Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Atlantis, station crews exchange hugs, goodbyes

After a week of work on the International Space Station, the Atlantis crew this afternoon said goodbye to five station residents and turned their focus to the two-day journey home.

Atlantis won't undock from the outpost until 4:53 a.m. EST Wednesday, but its seven-person crew has returned to the shuttle and hatches between the spacecraft are being sealed.

The crews exchanged hugs and handshakes around 12:45 p.m. in the station's Harmony node before splitting up.

The station crew shoved a floating Nicole Stott, their outgoing flight engineer, toward the shuttle hatch as a final symbolic gesture of cargo transfer from the station to the shuttle -- officially "Item 914."

Atlantis arrived at the orbiting science complex last Wednesday, two days after launching from Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle plans to land at KSC at 9:44 a.m. Friday.

A preliminary weather forecast looks favorable for the landing, but if necessary, a second opportunity is possible Friday at 11:19 a.m.

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