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Atlantis reached Earth orbit with critical heat shielding intact, NASA's Mission Management Team concluded. Photo Credit/NASA Photo. NASA's STS-135 Mission Management Team has declared the protective heat shielding on the shuttle Atlantis safe for a scheduled landing on July 21.The declaration came late Tuesday, four days after the 13-day flight was launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Since the lift off, NASA imagery analysis experts have reviewed photography of the launching. The imagery was gathered from tracking cameras, on board video and damage surveys as well as close up photos of the orbiter's underside thermal shielding taken on Sunday, as Atlantis docked with the International Space Station.Nonetheless, Atlantis is due another heat shield damage survey on July 19, a day after a scheduled undocking from the station.The four Atlantis astronauts are in the midst of NASA's final shuttle program flight. The 13-day, STS-135 cargo mission is fortifying the orbiting science laboratory for six person operations through 2012, as the agency transitions to emerging commercial re-supply services.
os 99, NASA, shuttle, ISS
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