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Shuttle 'Atlantis' leaves space station

CAPE CANAVERAL — Shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Wednesday and headed home with one astronaut eager to hold his newborn daughter for the first time and another who has been away from her young son since the summer.

Before signing off from Mission Control, flight director Mike Sarafin wished the seven crew members a happy Thanksgiving and a good landing on Friday.

"We'll do our best to stay sharp until the round things stop rolling," replied commander Charles Hobaugh.

The shuttle departed as the spacecraft soared nearly 220 miles above the Pacific, just northeast of New Guinea. Over the past week, the astronauts stockpiled the outpost and performed maintenance that should keep it running for another five to 10 years.

Astronaut Nicole Passonno Stott, on her way home after three months in orbit, said goodbye to the five colleagues she left behind on the space station.

"It was a real pleasure working with you guys," she radioed. "I was blessed with a wonderful crew, and I look forward to seeing you guys on the ground real soon."

Wednesday was the 89th day in space for Stott, a 47-year-old engineer. She flew to the space station at the end of August. She said she can't wait to see her husband and 7-year-old son, and to have a pizza.

Good landing weather is expected Friday morning.

The next shuttle visit, by Endeavour, is in February.

Shuttle 'Atlantis' leaves space station 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:00pm]
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