Monday, July 11, 2011

Atlantis Stay At Station Extended A Day

NASA's 135th an final shuttle mission -- and in fact, the 30-year-old shuttle program -- has been extended a day to take advantage of having four extra people on the International Space Station.

Consequently, the shuttle's grand finale -- an Atlantis touch down planned at Kennedy Space Center -- now is being scheduled for just before 6 a.m. July 21.

NASA mission managers hoped to conserve enough power-producing capability to extend Atlantis's planned eight-day stay at the station by 24 hours.

LeRoy Cain, deputy shuttle program manager and chairman of NASA's Mission Management Team, said the conservation efforts in early part of the mission -- and a launch on the first attempt -- have enabled NASA to save enough cryogenic reactants to generate electricity for the extra day at the outpost.

NASA mission managers also decided today that no focused inspection of shuttle heat shield components will be required. Engineers scouring launch video, data from an extensive Flight Day 2 inspection, and photographs taken during the shuttle's approach to the station Sunday uncovered no significant areas of concern.

Only one of the shuttle's 30,000 tiles received enough damage to warrant mention. But that damage was insignificant, Cain said.

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