Atlantis Crew Wrapping Up Final Shuttle Mission

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis have said farewell to their counterparts at the International Space Station, as they prepare to wrap up the final mission of the 30-year shuttle program.

Atlantis astronauts Monday used a robotic arm to detach a cargo hauler full of old equipment and trash from the space station and load it onto the shuttle for the return trip to Earth.

Some two tons of unneeded equipment were packed onto the Italian-built Raffaello cargo pod and placed into Atlantis' cargo bay.

Later, the Atlantis astronauts said their final goodbyes before closing the hatches between the two spacecraft in preparation for Tuesday's departure. Space Station Flight Engineer Ron Garan said that when closing the hatches, they were closing a chapter in the history of the US.

Atlantis is scheduled to end its 13-day mission with a Thursday morning landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Atlantis, the fourth shuttle in NASA's fleet, first flew into space in October 1985.