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Atlantis ready to come home

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The space shuttle Atlantis is packing up and heading for home. The bird is due to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre this afternoon, but the exact time of the landing will depend on weather conditions.

Hollywood smiles from the Atlantis' crew. Credit NASA TV

Hollywood smiles from the Atlantis' crew. Credit NASA TV

The pilots will have two opportunities to de-orbit and head for home. NASA says an engine burn at 12:50pm (EDT) would have the crew on the tarmac by 1:55pm (EDT). But if the weather is not looking promising, the pilots can also choose to begin the de-orbit burn at 2:25pm (EDT), with the landing at 3:30pm (EDT).

NASA has not said what will happen if the weather is still looking bad by the time the second landing window rolls around, but has stated that the traditional backup landing sites at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and White Sands Space Harbour, New Mexico, will not be considered on Thursday.

Update: According to a helpful Reg reader, NASA has the following backup plan if the weather nixes a landing today: "Friday allows four attempts. Two in Florida and two in California. Seven possible landings on Saturday. Two in Florida, two in California, and three in New Mexico."

Supplies on the Shuttle are good until Sunday.®

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