Space Shuttle to Land Thursday on Final Flight

Posted July 20th, 2011 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The space shuttle Atlantis is set to land early Thursday, closing out the final flight of the 30-year U.S. shuttle program.

Atlantis is sheduled to touch down at 5:56 a.m. Thursday at Kennedy Space Center in the southern U.S. state of Florida.

Astronauts on board Atlantis have been making final preparations for Thursday's landing. The U.S. space agency, NASA, says mission managers have cleared the shuttle's heat shield for entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA is forecasting ideal weather for the landing.

Atlantis' 13-day mission capped off its 33rd and final flight after 26 years in service.

The spacecraft and its four-member crew departed from the International Space Station on Tuesday after an eight-day visit, to deliver a year's worth of supplies, and haul trash and used equipment back to Earth.

On Wednesday, Atlantis deployed a four-kilogram satellite, the last to be released by a U.S. space shuttle.

NASA has contracted with four commercial space companies to develop new spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The new vehicles are still three to five years away from service. Russian Soyuz capsules will transport astronauts for the next few years.