|After a quarter-century of flight, Atlantis is on its last mission unless the Obama administration agrees to add one more trip. (Reuters/Nasa Tv)|
Astronauts laud Atlantis on final mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Atlantis’s homeward-bound astronauts paid tribute yesterday to their space shuttle, close to winding up its final journey after a quarter-century of flight.
Commander Kenneth Ham noted that Atlantis has spent nearly 300 days in orbit over 32 missions, and traveled 120 million miles. He and his crew took along a small US flag that flew on Atlantis’s first flight.
“Atlantis is just a fabulous ship,’’ said Ham’s co-pilot, Dominic “Tony’’ Antonelli. “If this ends up being space shuttle Atlantis’s last flight, we’ve got an American flag here that we’re honored to fly,’’ he said.
This is the last flight on the books for Atlantis. Only two missions remain as NASA’s shuttle program winds down, unless the Obama administration agrees to add one more trip for Atlantis.
Touchdown was scheduled for 8:48 a.m. this morning. Mission Control warned the crew that rain could interfere, but noted: “We think we’ve got a pretty good fighting chance.’’ Atlantis has enough supplies to remain in orbit until Saturday.
Mission managers said the results of Monday’s survey of Atlantis looked good and cleared the shuttle for reentry.
With just 26 hours officially remaining in their mission, the six astronauts beamed down a video they recorded over the previous few days aboard Atlantis as well as the International Space Station.
The astronauts spent yesterday getting Atlantis ready to come home after 12 days circling the earth, and checking the critical flight systems.