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Stipe croons 'Man on the Moon' to Atlantis crew

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The crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis were this morning greeted by R.E.M's Michael Stipe, who delivered a vocal snippet of the band's Man on the Moon, followed by a quick message.

Stipe said: “Good morning, Atlantis. This is Michael Stipe from R.E.M. We wish you much success on your mission and thank all the women and men at NASA who have worked on the shuttle for three decades. From Earth, a very good morning to you.”

We suspect that NASA's press office may have had a hand in Stipe's contribution to the increasingly tearful end-of-an-era love-in which the agency has arranged to mark the closure of the shuttle programme.

In a similar message to the International Space Station yesterday, Elton John said: "Good morning, Atlantis, this is Elton John. We wish you much success on your mission. A huge thank you to all the men and women at NASA who worked on the shuttle for the last three decades."

Nonetheless, Stipe's solo rendition of Man On The Moon was certainly all his own work. He explained: "I recorded Man On The Moon for NASA in Venice, Italy, where Galileo first presented to the Venetian government his eight-power telescope, and in 1610 wrote The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), an account of his early astronomical discoveries that altered forever our view of our place in the universe."

Back on the ISS, meanwhile, the Atlantis and Expedition 28 station crewmembers are about halfway through unloading 9,403 pounds (4.26 metric tonnes) of spare and supplies from the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module.

Here's NASA's video round-up of yesterday's activities aboard the orbiting outpost, including a couple of shots of just how you shift boxes in space:

The latest news on Atlantis swansong STS-135 mission is right here. ®

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