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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Atlantis begins descent to Earth
Space shuttle   Image: Nasa
The shuttle has sufficient fuel and supplies to stay aloft until Sunday
US space shuttle Atlantis has broken orbit and begun its descent for a landing in California, Nasa said.

The US space agency passed on its first opportunity to bring the Atlantis orbiter back to Earth on Friday.

Nasa managers said conditions at the Kennedy Space Center were too poor to land the ship, adding they would now land it at a backup site in California.

Atlantis is due to return to Earth at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert at 1549 local time (1949 GMT).

Rain around the Florida base had already delayed the shuttle's return by a day.

The shuttle has enough fuel and supplies to stay in space until Sunday.

The orbiter has been on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space shuttle, BBC

During the trip, its crew installed a 17-tonne metal truss on the half-finished complex. The truss segment included solar panels to generate additional electricity.

The construction work clears the way for Europe's Columbus module - and its Harmony connecting node - to be despatched to the station later this year.

Harmony is scheduled to fly aboard the Discovery shuttle in October; Columbus will be lofted in December on Atlantis.

The laboratory is Europe's key contribution to the $100bn (50bn) space station project.

Atlantis also dropped off a new ISS crew member - US astronaut Clay Anderson.

He replaces Sunita Williams, whose more than six months in space set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.

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