Astronauts Wrap Up Work Aboard Linked Space Shuttle and Station, Prepare for Trip Home
HOUSTON – The 10 astronauts aboard the linked space shuttle and space station wrapped up their joint work and got ready to say goodbye.
The hatches between the two spacecraft were to be sealed Sunday. Atlantis will undock Monday after a nine-day visit to the international space station. Astronaut Daniel Tani — in orbit for four months — will be aboard the shuttle.
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Tani expects to have mixed emotions when it comes time to leave. He moved into the space station in October and had his stay extended two months because of fuel gauge trouble that bumped Atlantis' flight from December to February.
"I love living here on the station. It's comfortable. It's fun. It's exciting. The view, of course," Tani, 47, said Saturday. "But obviously, I want to get back and see my family."
"I look forward to some odd things," he added. "I'm looking forward to putting food on a plate and eating several things at once, which you can't do up here. I'm looking forward to spitting my toothpaste out in a sink rather than swallowing it."
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Tani's mission was marred by the death of his 90-year-old mother. She was killed in a car accident near Chicago just before Christmas.
He said he's putting together a tip sheet for future space station residents who might have to deal with a family tragedy while they're in orbit, essentially ways to improve communication.
Flight director Bob Dempsey said he could not be more pleased with Atlantis' visit. The two crews installed the new European lab, Columbus, and conducted three spacewalks to hook it up and do other space station chores.
"The mission has gone, by many measures of success, extremely smoothly," he said.
Atlantis and its seven-man crew will land Wednesday at Cape Canaveral, Florida, or the backup touchdown site in California. NASA and the Defense Department want them out of harm's way when the military shoots down an ailing spy satellite.