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Atlantis crew pay awkward tribute to 'iconic' shuttle

Emotional message from 'beloved' space station

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The crew of Atlantis have paid a somewhat awkward tribute to their venerable vehicle, as the US prepares to bid a tearful farewell to the space shuttle programme.

The STS-135 crew members were this morning spared a celebrity wake-up call, instead enjoying a cheery bonjour from workers at the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi, which is responsible for testing the shuttle's main engines.

Following a quick blast of Kool and the Gang's Celebration, Stennis workers declared: "Good morning Atlantis, from your friends at Stennis Space Center. It’s time to fire up your engines – laissez les bons temps rouler!"

The good times are certainly rolling aboard the International Space Station, with exactly "96 per cent" of the box-shifting from the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module now wrapped. Once the cargo container is loaded with clapped-out hardware and waste from the orbiting outpost, it'll be moved back to Atlantis' cargo bay tomorrow.

The shuttle is in good shape for a final return to Earth, with its General Purpose Computer (GPC) 4 back in "stable operation" following a crash on Thursday. NASA says data processing experts "believe an unknown hardware glitch caused the computer to shut down".

The agency adds: "Commander Chris Ferguson has been asked to reassign GPC 4 to the shuttle systems management role it had served prior to the failure. GPC 1 will serve as the guidance, navigation and control computer. GPCs 2 and 3 will be in the standby mode."

Atlantis has five GPCs, which are hardly state-of-the-art, but built like a brick outhouse to survive the rigours of shuttle operations. NASA has details here. ®

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