Space Shuttle returns to Earth

Atlantis touched down at Edwards Air Force Base
22 June 2007

Following an 8-day visit to the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Atlantis landed in California on Friday evening.

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After an earlier landing opportunity at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, was passed over due to continuing bad weather at the preferred landing site, Atlantis touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 21:49 CEST (15:49 Florida time) on Friday 22 June.

Space Shuttle Atlantis returns from the STS-117 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) where the crew's tasks included the installation of a new set of solar arrays. The addition of these solar arrays will increase the Station’s electricity generating capacity to about 60 kilowatts – enough to power 1000 average domestic light bulbs.

ISS configuration after STS-117
Latest ISS configuration after departure STS-117

This increase in power generation is essential for the assembly of the ISS. Upon the arrival of the European-built Node 2 and European Columbus laboratory, the Space Station needs to be able to supply the additional power required by these two elements and those still to come.

Atlantis also delivered a new Space Station crew member, Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson. He replaced NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who arrived at the Station in December with Shuttle flight STS-116.

Future shuttle missions for ESA astronauts

The STS-120 mission with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, which will also carry the Italian-built Node 2 connecting module into orbit, is scheduled to depart on 20 October 2007.

Flight STS-122, which will be carrying ESA’s Columbus laboratory, is due for launch on 6 December 2007. The crew of the STS-122 mission will include ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts.

Eyharts will fly onboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 16 crew during the commissioning of the Columbus laboratory. He will return home with the STS-123 crew some two months later.

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