Space shuttle Atlantis cleared for landing

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One of two pieces of debris seen outside the shuttle.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

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About Atlantis

Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

NASA has given the 'ok' for the Space Shuttle Atlantis to land on Thursday September 21. NASA also says that there was "no damage" to the shuttle when astronauts spotted a piece of debris floating next to the shuttle.

"We are cleared for entry. Nothing was found to be missing or damaged from the thermal protection system, the heat shield of the space shuttle Atlantis, or, in fact, any other part of the shuttle Atlantis," said N. Wayne Hale Jr., the shuttle's program director.

The debris is believed to be a piece of plastic from under the shuttle's heat tiles. A similar piece was seen by cameras falling from inbetween the heat shield tiles, but when the camera took another look, there was nothing to be found. Hale says that the source of the debris is unknown and that "we [NASA] may never know" where it came from.

"This is most likely the culprit. It was there before, it's not there now. It was most likely shaken loose during the flight control system checkout. We probably will never know for sure," added Hale.

Astronauts used Atlantis's robotic arm to check the shuttle and its heat shield for any signs of damage.

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