Cape Canaveral: The astronauts making NASA's last shuttle flight are almost done packing up their gigantic suitcase for the ride home.
The 10 space travelers spent the day putting some final items in Raffaello, the Italian-made cargo canister that's the size of a bus.
"Keep going, you are almost done," encouraged Mission Control.
The compartment will be moved from the International Space Station back onto space shuttle Atlantis early tomorrow.
It carried up tons of food, supplies and other household goods. And it will return with dozens of bundles of trash and discarded equipment.
Atlantis will undock from the space station on Tuesday, after a visit of more than a week, and aim for a Thursday landing back in Florida to end 30 years of shuttle flight.
The four shuttle astronauts took some time off today to relax before heading home.
In a departure from last week's string of celebrity greetings, today's special message to the crew aboard Atlantis came from workers at NASA's Stennis Space Center near New
Orleans. That's where the shuttle main engines were tested over the decades.
"It's time to fire up your engines laissez les bons temps rouler!" the Stennis crowd shouted, urging the astronauts to let the good times roll.
The wake-up music was Kool and the Gang's "Celebration," chosen by the shuttle crew before the flight.
Astronaut Sandra Magnus said the crew picked the song "to dedicate to the whole shuttle workforce in celebration of everything that you've accomplished over the years."
NASA is retiring its three space shuttles, sending them to museums, so it can work on sending astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.
The goals set forth by the Obama administration: an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by the mid-2030s.
First Published: Sunday, July 17, 2011, 21:56