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Astronauts getting time off in space, finally

The astronauts on NASA's last space shuttle flight got some time off Thursday to savor their historic experience.

July 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
After a hectic week in orbit, the astronauts on NASA's last space shuttle flight got some time off Thursday to savor their historic experience.

They say it's good to be able to relax and to appreciate what they're doing in space.

"This is one of the first days we've been able to take a deep breath and appreciate what we're doing up here," said space shuttle Atlantis' commander, Christopher Ferguson.

They got a special wake-up call from Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who sang them a few lines from the band's hit "Man on the Moon."

The 10 astronauts got time to linger over the "all-American meal" of grilled chicken and barbecued beef brisket that NASA packed for them, complete with baked beans and Hostess apple pie.

Before kicking back and relaxing, Ferguson said the space station delivery mission was going well and that the back-and-forth cargo hauling was three-quarters completed.

"Atlantis is purring like a kitten," he said. "I think she's about 25 years or so old, but she performs just like a newborn."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.