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Space Shuttle Atlantis Plans to Begin Return to Earth Tuesday

Officials with the US space agency NASA have tentatively cleared the space shuttle Atlantis to return to Earth on Tuesday, ending a 13-day mission. The decision follows Saturday's announcement that all six computers on board the International Space Station's Russian Zarya module are back on line. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

Russian cosmonauts finally managed to bring four of six critical operation and control, and life support computers online after the computers crashed on Wednesday.

But they could not jump start two of the computers, and space officials thought they'd have to bring them back home with the shuttle Atlantis.

Now, mission manager say all six computers are tentatively operating. Russian controllers began turning on systems that scrub carbon dioxide and process water.

Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov are now focusing most of their attention on computers responsible for maintaining the space station's position in orbit.

The guidance and navigation system computers communicate with a command and control computer, which makes it possible to operate the space station from the ground.

Once that system is cleared, NASA International Space Station Mission Manager Mike Suffredini says the space shuttle Atlantis will be cleared to head home. "We still have in the plan for the shuttle to leave on Tuesday. And of course as you can imagine things are looking up as if Tuesday would be a good day for our shuttle friends to depart," he said.

Mission control cleared Atlantis' seven-member crew to return following a successful space walk Friday to repair a torn thermal blanket using staples.

The blanket, which protects the shuttle during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, tore during last week's launch.

The Atlantis is scheduled to land at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Thursday.