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Space shuttle Atlantis set for return flight

world Updated: Jun 18, 2007 12:54 IST
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Two US astronauts completed the fourth and final spacewalk of the Atlantis mission, setting the stage for the shuttle's return to earth later this week, which will bring home Indian-American Sunita Williams after her six-month sojourn at the ISS, a record for a woman.

During the six-hour, 29-minute spacewalk on Sunday, mission specialists Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson successfully completed all the tasks assigned to them, including the activation of the International Space Station's new truss segment.

They also installed a new set of solar panels and a shield to protect the station against meteors, besides removing an antenna for satellite navigation.

Attention now turns to the departure of Atlantis, which is slated to undock from the ISS on Tuesday and return to earth on Thursday. Williams, who on Saturday broke the record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman, will be among the seven-member crew making the flight back.

'Suni', as she is called, came to the station in December in her first space flight. She will be relieved by Clayton Anderson, who came up with Atlantis and will remain on the ISS until October.

However, mission managers may yet decide to add a day of docked operations for the Atlantis crew if the Russian navigation computers do not perform adequately during a test today morning.