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Atlantis set to touch down Earth today


Space shuttle Atlantis at the International Space Station.

HOUSTON (AFP/PTI): Favourable weather conditions awaited shuttle Atlantis and its seven-astronaut crew on their expected return to Earth Friday, after a successful 11-day mission to the International Space Station.

The shuttle was expected to touch down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1444 GMT under mostly sunny skies, the US space agency said Thursday.

“Atlantis is in great shape,” said NASA flight director Bryan Lunney, who will supervise the descent from mission control here. “The crew is in great shape. The weather is looking really good.”

The shuttle crew, returning from one of NASA's few remaining shuttle missions, delivered and equipped the orbiting science laboratory with nearly 30,000 pounds of spare parts.

Most of the large gyroscopes, thermal control system components and other external gear is intended to sustain operations of the station by a US-led partnership of 14 nations well beyond the shuttle's approaching retirement.

“We got a lot accomplished,” Atlantis commander Charlie Hobaugh told ABC News earlier as the astronauts finished a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal that included pre-packaged smoked turkey and cornbread dressing. “It was a fantastic mission,” he added.

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