Sunday, May 24, 2009

Atlantis Touches down in Sunny California

After thirteen days in earth orbit, the space shuttle Atlantis fired her jets and returned home to America with a desert runway landing at sunny Edwards, AFB in California this morning.

Continuing rain bands flowing up the Space Coast caused Mission Control to reroute the mission from a landing here at the Kennedy Space Center to a beautiful blue sky Edwards landing.

Coming home following a very successful flight to service and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, Atlantis fired two thruster engines at 10:24 am EDT today to brake her speed by 305 mph, and begin to drop her out of her elliptical orbit of 220 x 350 statue miles.

The orbiter blazed a path and cut though earth's atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean. The orbiter flew north of Hawaii and eastward toward southern California on the tail end of the mission's 197th orbit of earth.

As the newly risen Sun shone brightly on the orbiter's white skin of thermal blankets and tiles, Atlantis' commander Scott Altman pitched her nose up, and pilot Greg Johnson dropped the landing gear as they flew toward the thresh hold of runway 22.

"Ten feet. Five feet. One foot... Touchdown!" pilot Johnson radioed to his commander as the main gear hit the desert runway at 220 mph at 11:39:05 am EDT. Seconds later, a drogue chute ejected from the aft section of Atlantis, and the nose gear lowered as her speed began to drop below 200 mph. Atlantis came to a complete stop at 11:40:15 am.

"At last! I didn't realize it was going to be so hard to get back to the Earth, landing here just felt great to everybody," stated Altman after landing. "We're all thrilled to have the mission complete and it was a testament to the teamwork and cooperation of folks all across the country."

Atlantis had completed her 30th flight and a successful Hubble servicing mission which lasted 12 days, 21 hours 37 minutes and 9 seconds, and traveled 5,276,000 million miles. It was also the 56th space shuttle flight to conclude with an Edwards landing dating back to April 1981.

Along with Altman and Johnson were Mission Specialists Michael Good, K. Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Andrew Feustel and Mike Massimino.

Atlantis began her latest flight on May 11th.

1 comment:

Jonathan Woodworth said...

Thanks Charles for excellent coverage of this mission. I have been traveling for 2 weeks and was only able to keep up with it through your posts.
Great job.

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