The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Monday that the hatches separating the Space Shuttle Atlantis from the International Space Station closed had closed in preparation for the Shuttle’s planned undocking from the Station on Tuesday. The hatch closure occurred after the Shuttle Crew members bid farewell to the Expedition 15 crew members currently manning the International Space Station.
Expedition 15 crew members consist of both American and Russian astronauts in what is truly a joint international space exploration endeavor.
The STS-117 mission to the Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis made several headlines over the course of its mission due to minor damage to the Shuttle during lift-off and a space endurance record set by astronaut Suni Williams.
The STS-117 crew members transported several components for the Space Station aboard Atlantis. STS-117 crew members worked along side Expedition 15 crew members to install the components which included truss segments and solar arrays. The truss segments and solar arrays were successfully installed and activated during the course of four spacewalks completed by mission specialists James Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, and John Olivas. The minor damage to the space shuttle’s orbital maneuvering system pod was completed during the third spacewalk, according to NASA’s mission update.
Astronaut Suni Williams joined the crew of STS-117 when it arrived carrying her replacement Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson. Williams broke the endurance record for the longest spaceflight by a female astronaut on June 16th, 2006. She was transported to the Station in December of 2006 as a member of the STS-116 crew. William’s helped NASA gain valuable knowledge about the long-term effects of space on the human body by withdrawing and banking her blood as part of a nutrition study in addition to conducting experiments concerning bone density and muscle loss, according to NASA’s mission update.
The endurance record is not the first that Williams has broken during her stint in space. She also broke the record for the longest time a female has spent outside a spacecraft, time she accrued during spacewalks. She will return to earth with the STS-117 crew aboard Atlantis.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is set to undock Tuesday. Before the shuttle begins its trek back to Earth, the craft will turn allowing crew members to take photographs of the Space Station with its new truss segments extended.
Besides the minor damage to the shuttle, the mission was a success allowing NASA to stay on track in its bid to finish construction of the International Space Station and complete repairs to the Hubble telescope before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.
“Atlantis Undocks From Space Station”
National Aeronautics and Space Administration