Atlantis' five astronauts packed up and prepared for today's landing that will end the space shuttle's final secret military flight.
The crew worked amid a public silence Sunday, two days after releasing a spy satellite from the shuttle. The satellite will conduct photo surveys of the Persian Gulf or eavesdrop on communications there, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.Mission Control broke the stillness Sunday afternoon to announce that Atlantis would land at about 4:48 p.m. EST today at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. NASA previously reported the shuttle would land between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST.
Atlantis blasted into a 170-mile-high orbit Thursday night. The Pentagon mission had been planned for July but was delayed because of the shuttle's hydrogen leaks.
During the grounding, Atlantis' cargo reportedly was modified to spy on Iraq.
Space shuttle Columbia, meanwhile, is being prepared for an astronomy mission early next month.