Atlantis Crew Heads Home as Space Station Mission Ends

From Associated Press

Their mission accomplished despite some "bumps in the road," space shuttle Atlantis and its crew left the international space station on Sunday and set off for home.

Atlantis' five-member crew is due back at Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday, 12 days after lifting off on the construction flight. Space station Alpha's residents are due back in August after a five-month stay; another shuttle will bring their replacements.

During the eight days that the two spacecraft flew as one, the astronauts installed a $164-million passageway for spacewalkers and hooked up high-pressure gas tanks to it. Americans living aboard the space station now can conduct spacewalks in their own suits, rather than relying on Russian outfits and a tight Russian exit.

"We had a few minor hiccups along the way," shuttle commander Steven Lindsey said, adding that he was pleased overall. The hiccups included: air and water leaks, a balky valve, a screeching pump and a computer crash.

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