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NASA STS-135 Report #25 3:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Status Report From: Johnson Space Center
Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

image Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON - Deployment of a small satellite, checkout of Atlantis' flight flaps and rudder, and packing up for their return home kept shuttle crew members busy Wednesday.

Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim are scheduled to land Atlantis a little before 5 a.m. CDT Thursday at Kennedy Space Center. Forecasters are calling for good weather.

That last landing of the shuttle program will bring Atlantis to its final home. It is to be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex.

The crew began cabin stowage - packing up in preparation for Thursday's landing - early in its workday. Ferguson, Hurley and Walheim spent a little over an hour beginning around 1:15 a.m. with a checkout of the flight control surfaces, the rudder and flaps with which they will guide the shuttle through the atmosphere. Subsequently they hot fired reaction control system jets, the thrusters that control Atlantis' orientation before the flight control surfaces become effective as the shuttle descends into the atmosphere.

Springs pushed the PicoSat from Atlantis' cargo bay at 2:49 a.m. It is designed to evaluate the performance of a variety of solar cells mounted on it. The eight-pound, 5- by 5- by 10-inch satellite could lead to development of improved solar cells for use in space.

It was the 180th payload deployed by a space shuttle.

Shuttle crew members got one last chance to talk from space with news media representatives on the ground. A little before 4 a.m., the crew answered questions from ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.

The Empire State Building in New York City - instantly recognizable just as the NASA space shuttle is - will pay tribute to, and celebrate, the Space Shuttle Program Wednesday night by lighting the way home for Atlantis and its crew. To honor 30 years of shuttle flights on 135 missions, the Empire State Building will glow Red, White and Blue throughout the night Wednesday as Atlantis prepares to return home ending the last shuttle flight. The ESB lighting schedule is at: http://www.esbnyc.com/

A graphic depicting the tribute is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/multimedia/empire_state.html

The next status report will be issued after crew wakeup, scheduled for 8:29 p.m. Wednesday or earlier if warranted.

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