Share “Last space shuttle astronauts finish...”

Last space shuttle astronauts finish packing up

Associated Press Modified: July 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm •  Published: July 17, 2011

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The astronauts making NASA's last shuttle flight gave up their off-duty time Sunday and finished packing up their gigantic suitcase for the ride home.

The 10 space travelers cheered as they put the final items in Raffaello, the Italian-made cargo canister that's the size of a bus.

More than 5,600 pounds of old space station equipment, packing foam and other trash will return to Earth this week inside Raffaello. Everything is neatly packed and stacked, even if it is junk.

"We're full," reported astronaut Sandra Magnus. "Everybody pitched in."

The compartment will be moved from the International Space Station back onto space shuttle Atlantis early Monday. It carried up to 9,400 pounds of food, clothes and other household goods — a year's worth of supplies.

Atlantis will undock from the space station Tuesday, after a visit of more than a week, and aim for a Thursday landing back in Florida to end 30 years of shuttle flight.

Mission Control gave the four shuttle astronauts some time off Sunday to relax before heading home, but they spent it packing.

Now that most of the work is behind, the realization that this is the last shuttle flight is starting to sink in, said flight director Chris Edelen. He said he had a dream the night before in which he was in Mission Control gazing, via TV, at the "beautiful" wings of Atlantis, docked at the space station.

Continue reading this story on the...