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Atlantis crew lightens load in orbit

Astronaut Sandra Magnus prepares to eat in the space shuttle Atlantis
Astronaut Sandra Magnus prepares to eat in the space shuttle Atlantis

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(CNN) -- The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis lightened its load on Friday, transferring supplies, equipment and experiments to the international space station.

The day comes as a breather after the most difficult challenge of the 11-day flight, transferring a 14-ton girder from the shuttle payload bay and installing it to the orbiting outpost.

Atlantis astronauts crossed that task off their job list on Thursday, thanks to a giant robotic crane on the space station and a six-plus hour spacewalk.

The spacwalkers, Atlantis crewmembers David Wolf and Piers Sellers, plan to venture outside again Saturday and Monday to put some final touches on the $390 million truss.

The 45-foot-long (14-meter) metal beam is loaded with 15 miles (24 kilometers) of wiring, several radiators and a rail cart, which spacewalking astronauts and the station's robotic arm will use on future assembly jobs to move around the modular complex.

Also on Friday, the six Atlantis astronauts plan to mingle with the three residents of the space station. And members of both crews are scheduled to talk to Earth-bound reporters via satellite.

Atlantis astronaut Sandra Magnus, who helped direct the robotic arm that hoisted the girder from the shuttle bay, and her crewmates Wolf and Sellers were to field questions from CNN Space Correspondent Miles O'Brien on Headline News shortly after 3 p.m. ET.

The Atlantis fliers, who reached the station on Wednesday, are the first visitors for the current trio of residents, who began living in the modular outpost in early June.

The shuttle, the first to fly since June when the entire fleet was grounded for fuel line repairs, is scheduled to return to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 18.

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