Atlantis Crew Seals Up Space Station

Sunday, September 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) — The crew of space shuttle Atlantis sealed up the international space station early Sunday, wrapping up a week of home improvement projects on the soon-to-be inhabited outpost.

Commander Terrence Wilcutt and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko backed their way out of the station, closing 11 hatches along the way. Last Monday, the pair were the first to enter the station, which has since been stocked with supplies and outfitted with new equipment.

``You had a lot of work scheduled. You got all that done and you kept asking for more,'' Mission Control radioed up. ``We think you did a fantastic job and we know the Expedition One crew will really appreciate all the effort you put in getting their new home set up.''

Expedition One, the first permanent crew, should arrive in just six weeks.

After undocking from the space station around midnight EDT Sunday, Atlantis will fly two passes around the complex while the crew snaps a series of pictures for study by station engineers back on terra firma.

Atlantis is due to land at Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday. Hurricane Gordon, expected to make landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast late Sunday, should not interfere with those plans, said NASA flight director Wayne Hale.

At the shuttle's launch and landing site, NASA rushed Saturday to tie down or remove loose objects and prepared for a possible rollback of space shuttle Discovery into its hangar. But by Sunday morning, with the hurricane expected to steer clear of Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA decided to keep Discovery on its launch pad.

Discovery was moved to the pad just last week and is supposed to lift off Oct. 5 on a space station construction mission.

Atlantis' crew had only a few minor tasks to perform before it left the station.

Astronaut Edward Lu checked a treadmill he helped install Saturday and found it was ready for its first workout. The station's permanent crew will use it, along with an exercise bicycle and a muscle resistance machine, to keep their muscles from atrophying in the weightlessness of space.

The crew also finished transferring some 6,000 pounds of supplies into the station. Most of the gear is for the crew — two Russians and an American — due to spend four months there beginning in November.

Late Saturday, Wilcutt and pilot Scott Altman fired the shuttle's rockets 36 times to raise the station's altitude by about three miles, leaving it 239 miles above Earth's surface. In conjunction with three earlier boosts, Atlantis pushed the station's orbit up by about 14 miles.

Earlier in the week, the crew plugged in five new station batteries, added a new compass boom outside, laid data and power cables between the exteriors of the two Russian segments, and installed two very critical pieces of equipment — a toilet and an oxygen generator.