Feb 21, 2008

Atlantis landed successfully

US space shuttle Atlantis landed at its Florida home port on Wednesday after a successful mission to deliver Europe's Columbus space lab to International Space Station. Now, returnging of Atlantis has cleared the way for the U.S. military to shoot down a dead spy satellite.

Atlantis touched down at 9:07 a.m. EST at the Kennedy Space Center, where NASA already has its next spaceship at the launch pad for a March 11 flight to continue assembling the International Space Station.

Flying through crisp and clear skies, Atlantis commander Stephen Frick circled high over the spaceport to burn off speed, then nosed the 100-ton spaceplane onto a three-mile (4.8 km)-long, canal-lined runway just a few miles (km) west of where the shuttle blasted off 13 days ago.

"Thanks for keeping us safe when we're airborne and bringing us safely home," Frick told ground controllers after the shuttle touched down.

Atlantis' return frees the U.S. Navy to fire a missile as early as Wednesday night at the falling spy satellite, which is loaded with toxic rocket propellant. The toxic fuel could pose a hazard to populated areas and destroying the satellite just before it re-enters Earth's atmosphere will increase the chance that debris will fall harmlessly into the ocean. The satellite was launched in December 2006 and failed shortly after reaching orbit. link


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