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ATLANTIS MAY RETURN A TAD EARLY

SHARE ATLANTIS MAY RETURN A TAD EARLY

Flight controllers told the Atlantis astronauts Saturday they will have to return to Earth at least 90 minutes early Monday to avoid predicted afternoon high winds at the California landing site.

Officials also said they were preserving an option, outlined Friday, of keeping the space shuttle in orbit an extra day or two if a landing can't be made Monday. A three-day extension was possible, but not likely, they said.To conserve power for a possible prolonged mission, the astronauts turned off unneeded lights and shut off some computers and other redundant equipment.

They were directed Saturday to adjust their work and sleep schedules to be ready to return at least 90 minutes, or one orbit, early on Monday. Bedtime was 90 minutes early Saturday and about 2 1/2 hours early Sunday.

The Galileo spacecraft the astronauts released six hours after launching on Wednesday was nearly 600 million miles from Earth on Saturday and "doing wonderfully," reported mission director Neil Ausman. He said the craft had measured radiation from a large solar flare that erupted on the sun Thursday, but its computer memory was not affected by the large dose.