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Space Engineers to Begin Prepping Shuttle for Return to Florida

Now that the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis has landed safely in California, officials with the U.S. space agency NASA must begin days of work to get the shuttle back to its home base in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida.

The shuttle touched down at an alternate landing site, Edwards Air Force Base, on Friday after bad weather thwarted several attempts to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the shuttle fleet is housed.

With the shuttle's seven-member crew returning to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in the southwestern United States engineers are preparing the shuttle Atlantis for a flight across the country, piggybacked on top of a jumbo jet. The entire process - preparation and delivery - takes between seven and 10 days and costs nearly $2 million.

During their two-week mission, the Atlantis crew docked at the International Space Station and conducted four spacewalks, to do construction and repairs on both the station and the shuttle.

NASA engineers cleared the shuttle to return to Earth after determining that a repaired thermal blanket on the shuttle's exterior could withstand the intense heat of re-entering the atmosphere. The blanket was damaged on takeoff. Also during the shuttle visit, Russian computers on the International Space Station crashed and were not restored for several days. The computers help control the space station's orientation.

The next shuttle scheduled for launch is Endeavor, on August 9.