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Space

Astronauts Check Shuttle for Thursday's Landing

VOA News July 20, 2011

NASA astronauts onboard the space shuttle Atlantis made preparations for Thursday's planned touchdown, the last for the 30-year U.S. shuttle program.

Atlantis 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.

Later, Commander Christopher Ferguson and his crew checked flight control systems and practiced landings on a laptop.

NASA is forecasting ideal weather for the shuttle's Thursday morning landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 13-day mission capped off the Atlantis' 33rd and final flight after 26 years in service.

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

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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