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Smooth sailing for Atlantis, crew

Sun., July 10, 2011, midnight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The space shuttle Atlantis hasn’t performed like a ship ready for retirement.

The first full day of the final flight of the aging space shuttle fleet – the most complicated machines ever built – was practically flawless.

NASA officials say the unusually small four-person crew of Atlantis worked through lunch Saturday and finished their tasks in near-record time. After Friday’s launch they inspected the shuttle’s heat shield for launch damage and prepared for this morning’s docking with the International Space Station.

So far Atlantis doesn’t even have minor glitches. The worst problem is that the crew could not find an eye chart for a vision test, something that caused a chuckle among ground controllers.

“We couldn’t be more happy with what we’ve seen from the crew and Atlantis,” Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho said.

Often the first full day in orbit for shuttles has “little nuisance-type” glitches in setting up life in space and is usually one of the most difficult days in a flight, said shuttle mission management team chairman LeRoy Cain. He said hard work and good luck have paid off for Atlantis this time.

Today at 8:07 a.m. PDT, Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station to deliver more than 4 tons of supplies.


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