Wednesday, July 20, 2011

STS135: Atlantis prepares for final landing

Atlantis undocked and free of the station.

The astronauts on board shuttle Atlantis have been preparing their ship for its final return to Earth scheduled for Thursday. After undocking from ISS and moving the shuttle away from the station, astronauts used the robotic arm to take a final inspection of the heat tiles underneath the orbiter, ensuring they had no problems with the protective shield.

In the flight deck: Commander Chris Ferguson (back left) and pilot Doug Hurley. In front are mission specialists Sandy Magnus (left) and Rex Walhelm.

The crew also checked out the craft's landing and thruster systems, and the commander and pilot simulated landing procedures using a laptop computer simulator program.

Expedition 28 astronaut Mike Fossum took this beautiful picture of Atlantis just before the undocking sequence. Perfect view of the Raffaello logistics module in the shuttle cargo bay.

Milestone alert: The crew also found time to launch a small micro satellite, named PicoSat. This remarkable little explorer, under 10 inches in largest dimension, is designed to test some new solar cells during its time in orbit. This launching marks the 180th payload to be deployed during the shuttle program.

It was also the Last. Bon Voyage, PicoSat!

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