The Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station at 10:32 p.m. CST Sunday, leaving the second station crew to get settled in and begin in earnest the research planned aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The hatches between the shuttle and station were closed for a final time at 8:32 p.m., about an hour after departing Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd passed responsibility for the station to Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev. As the hatches closed, Usachev, and flight engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms marked the start of their four-month stay on orbit. The previous Expedition crew – Shepherd and Cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev – are now headed home on board Discovery.
After the undocking -- which occurred as the two vehicles flew over Guyana, South America, and its capital of Georgetown -- Pilot Jim Kelly flew Discovery one-and-a-quarter turns around the space station before initiating a final steering jet separation burn at 11:48 p.m. CST. During the flyaround at a distance of 450 feet the crew recorded television and still images of the station’s exterior.
The two vehicles were docked for a total of 8 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, which brings the total time shuttles have been docked to the station to 55 days, 23 hours, 7 minutes. The hatches were open for a total of 142 hours, 22 minutes during three periods punctuated by space walk-necessitated closures.
Over the course of joint operations between the station and shuttle crews, Discovery Commander Jim Wetherbee, Kelly and Mission Specialists Andy Thomas and Paul Richards worked with the station crew unloading almost five tons of experiments and equipment from the Italian-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, and packing almost one ton of items for return to Earth. Discovery’s space walkers – Voss and Helms, and Thomas and Richards -- also set the stage for continued expansion of the station by installing a platform that will be used to mount a Canadian-built robotic arm to the station next month.
After undocking, Discovery’s crew spent the rest of the day exercising, talking with their families and enjoying some scheduled off-duty time. The shuttle crew will go to sleep at 8:12 a.m. and awaken at 4:12 p.m., while the station crew will begin its sleep shift at 3:30 p.m., awakening at midnight.
The next Mission Control Center status report will be issued early Monday evening.
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