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Jun 20, 2007 at 01:58pm IST

Astronauts end tasks for trip home

Houston: Two US astronauts from the Atlantis space shuttle have completed a fourth and final space walk on the International Space Station (ISS), a spokesperson for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said Monday.

Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson’s space walk sets the stage for the shuttle’s return to Earth later this week. The shuttle will bring home Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams after her six-month sojourn at the ISS, a record for a woman.

During their over six-hour space walk on Sunday, Forrester and Swanson removed an antenna for satellite navigation and installed a new set of solar panels and a shield to protect the station against meteors.

DEEP SPACE: Astronauts fixed a installed a new set of solar panels on the ISS.

Attention now turns to the departure of Atlantis, which is slated to undock from the ISS on Tuesday and return to earth on Thursday. Williams, who on Saturday broke the record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman, will be among the seven-member crew making the flight back.

NASA decided to extend the current shuttle's mission by at least two days after an inspection revealed slight damage to its thermal blanket.

In 2003 similar heat shield damage led to the disintegration of the Columbia shuttle, which resulted in the death of seven astronauts on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

(With IANS and PTI)

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