Video: Atlantis shuttle lands safely

  1. Closed captioning of: Atlantis shuttle lands safely

    >> shuttle. and this is just absolutely beau full here today. they have a head wind coming in. and it will be the end of the 129th mission of the space shuttle , and there should be a total of 134 when they are through, and 165 american space flights before we go into that. this is a better picture.

    >> yeah, that's a beautiful picture. like a post card . i was reading how she cannot wait to get back to her 7-year-old son and eat a pizza and have a soda. now, let's talk about resnik. a guy out on a space walk , and look what happens down on earth with his family.

    >> yeah, he should did, he became a father. but the significance of that story is that they had adopted a ukrainian boy, and they had been told by doctors that they could not have biological children, and after the adoption, rebecca got pregnant. she is a lawyer, an attorney for nasa in houston. he, of course, is a mission astronaut. he is still an active lieutenant colonel in the marine corps . and we are beginning to see the outline of the clouds below them as they are approaching here on the east coast of florida. so they are coming in and 2:15 out. and everything is right on course. everything is going to be very happy to see his daughter when he gets here. and he wants to get back together with the family. you know, these are the things that happen when you dedicated your life to something like the space program , as they people do. they are the brightest people that we have, the most educated people, and they just do what they have to do. it was really something for him to be out there walking in space, and we forget the fact, alex , that he was traveling at 17,300 miles per hour an hour while walking along . alex , you know how fast you and i are moving right now on the earth?

    >> no, tell me.

    >> 67,000 miles per hour around the sun. we are on a spacecraft, too.

    >> i will hang on to the desk here.

    >> yeah, get a good grip.

    >> we are on a spacecraft.

    >> yeah, we are when you put it in that perspective. but how long are the astronauts kept before they are allowed to go be free and go to their families. they don't get off the space shuttle and walk home?

    >> look at the beautiful run way out in front of us now. he is coming in on the final approach and 57 seconds away. they will go home later tonight and tomorrow morning. and look at this beautiful picture coming up. let's get ready for the landing, here, alex . we are just 45 seconds out. and i don't see a cloud in the sky as " atlantis " is making its approach to the northwest. it's headed here on the final approach . now we see another picture coming up here shortly from the front window. this is what the commander sees, the pilot, as he is making a landing. the commuter no longer controls " atlantis ," and he is flying the " atlantis ." this is as long as any runway you have in new york, 500 feet wide. actually, as we said earlier, " atlantis " is just a glider. it's a perfect approach here and perfect shot. everything is beautiful. watch it come in. you can hear " atlantis " in the background, and it's coming over the end of the runway right now. and there goes the gear down, and we should get a last -- look at this. the gear is down and over in the run way, and it's coming in beautiful. they have it right on course. you can see the touchdown of the gear. there it is. now we need to pop the drag shoot to slow it down, and now the nose will come down, and guess what? " atlantis " is home. it will coast to a stop.

    >> i love about listening to you bring us down, you never lose your enthusiasm. i am smiling listening to you, because i know you are smiling the whole time. you have been there, counting them all, and you are great bringing them all down, every single time.

    >> well, thank you. you are very kind, dear. this is 160 flights. the first flight i covered, of course, was allen shepherd's launch on may 5th , 1961 . it never has gotten old, and neither has my wife.

    >> that is a good man right there. not only good employee, but good husband, made brownie points right there.

    >> you got to do it, alex . got to.

    >> good coverage, and thank you very much. we are glad the space shuttle " atlantis "s astronauts are back safe and sound, and happy their families are happy, too. thank you.

    >>> and it's been 12 years

updated 11/28/2009 3:06:31 PM ET 2009-11-28T20:06:31

The space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts returned to Earth with a smooth touchdown Friday to end an "amazing" flight that resupplied the International Space Station.

Within a few hours of landing, the astronauts feasted on turkey and trimmings with their families.

"You go see the doc, you get a turkey dinner. It's a pain," commander Charles Hobaugh told reporters with a smile.

The new father on the crew, Randolph Bresnik, bolted out of NASA's spaceport when the meal was over. He flew home to Houston a day ahead of his crewmates so he could see his newborn daughter and wife, who gave birth Saturday.

With bright sunlight glinting off it, the shuttle swooped through a clear sky and landed right on time. Mission Control said no one could remember such welcoming conditions: no clouds and temperatures in the 50s.

"Couldn't have picked a clearer day," Hobaugh said during the final approach. Mission Control congratulated him on a "picture perfect" touchdown.

"We really had truly an amazing mission," Hobaugh said after exiting Atlantis. The description was later repeated by NASA managers happy to cap off a year of five successful shuttle missions.

Sweet homecoming
It was an especially sweet homecoming for two of the crew: Bresnik, whose second child, Abigail Mae, was born after his first spacewalk, and Nicole Stott, who was away for three months at the space station.

Stott said she felt a little wobbly because of the tug of Earth's gravity, but was thrilled to be with her husband and 7-year-old son.

Hobaugh and his crew spent a week stockpiling the space station. They delivered big spare parts and performed three spacewalks to install equipment and carry out maintenance.

The pumps, gyroscopes and storage tanks should keep the outpost in business for another five to 10 years, long after Atlantis and the two other shuttles are retired.

Atlantis — which brought back broken equipment from the space station's water-recycling system — logged 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers) and circled Earth 171 times.

False alarms
The biggest problem during the 11-day mission was a series of false alarms that woke the astronauts in the middle of the night. The station alarms indicated possible smoke and decompression, and touched off a few frantic minutes for the crews of the linked spacecraft. A clogged filter in a new Russian research chamber was blamed.

Other than that, the flight unfolded extremely well, according to Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief.

"We're kind of superstitious in a way and we don't talk too much about when things are going really good," Gerstenmaier said. But with Atlantis safely back, he declared, "This has been a great year for us."

Slideshow: Month in Space Among 2009's shuttle missions was the final repair trip to the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA also launched a test flight of its Ares moon rocket, the planned shuttle successor.

This was Atlantis' next-to-last mission. Only five shuttle flights remain, all to the space station next year. Station construction will essentially end at that point, so NASA used the trip to send up as many hefty spare parts as possible. None of the other visiting spacecraft — from Russia, Japan and Europe — can carry so much in a single load.

Atlantis, which delivered nearly 15 tons of gear, left the space station 86 percent complete.

NASA's next shuttle flight is in February. Endeavour will deliver a full-fledged module to the space station, complete with a seven-window cupola for prime Earthgazing.

Meanwhile, NASA kept a close eye on two pieces of space junk due to pass near the space station.

NASA said Friday that flight controllers were monitoring a large piece of an old Delta rocket that could pass within an uncomfortably close six miles (10 kilometers) of the outpost Saturday afternoon. The rocket was used to launch NASA's Stardust spacecraft in 1999 to gather comet dust samples.

On Friday night, NASA mission managers and their Russian counterparts determined that the rocket body would pose no threat — and that the space station would not have to make an avoidance maneuver.

Flight controllers also kept an eye on the remnant of an old shuttle science payload that was projected to come within 8.6 miles (14 kilometers) of the station around 9 a.m. ET Monday. The object wasn't considered a threat, but NASA said it would plan for station maneuver if further tracking raised the level of concern.

This report was supplemented by

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