With all of their mission's objectives met or exceeded, Atlantis' crew shut the doors to the International Space Station early this morning in preparation for bidding the rejuvenated outpost farewell this evening.
"I couldn't be happier with the way this mission has gone," Lead Flight Director Phil Engelauf said. "Our accomplishments are at more than 100 percent for the flight."
"The crew will be leaving a pristine International Space Station behind them," added Paul Hill, Lead Station Flight Director.
Highlights of the crew's work aboard the station included the installation of four new batteries and associated electronics; 10 new smoke detectors in the Zarya module; four new cooling fans; additional cables for the Zarya computer to enhance its capabilities; a new communications memory unit; and a new power distribution box for the United States-built backup communications system. A new communications antenna, the final parts of a Russian crane, and various cabling and handholds were installed on the station's exterior by Astronauts Jeff Williams and Jim Voss during a six hour, 44-minute spacewalk. All of the new equipment has been checked out and is in excellent condition.
The crew unloaded over 3,300 pounds of gear from Atlantis. Subtracting equipment removed from the station and stowed on Atlantis, the net change in mass for the station is about one additional ton. Along with the new electrical equipment installed, the crew also stowed supplies for future crews aboard the station, including about 48 gallons of water in four 12-gallon bags; a treadmill, exercise bicycle ergometer, and resistive exercise device; and sewing kits, trash bags, clothes, tools, books, note pads and can openers, among other items. Overseeing the unloading and stowing of supplies was Astronaut Mary Ellen Weber. Also, Commander Jim Halsell and Pilot Scott Horowitz fired Atlantis' steering jets in gentle, hour-long maneuvers during each of the past three days to raise the station's orbital altitude by 27 miles. The station is now in the optimum orbit to await the arrival of the next major station component -- a Russian-built living quarters that will launch in July.
Astronaut Susan Helms and Cosmonaut Yury Usachev began backing out of the station -- closing five hatches behind them -- by closing a hatch to the Zarya module's main compartment at 12:23 a.m. CDT. The final hatch to the station was shut at 3:04 a.m. CDT as the orbiting complex flew about 234 miles above the Red Sea. Helms, Usachev and fellow crew member Jim Voss will again visit the station next year to spend more than four months as the second crew to live aboard. In total, the astronauts on Atlantis spent three days, eight hours and one minute with the hatches open to the station during the mission.
Atlantis' undocking from the International Space Station is planned for 6:03 p.m. CDT, followed by a half-loop flyaround of the station - from above to underneath - before firing its jets for the final separation. Atlantis and the station are in an orbit with a high point of 238 miles and a low point of 230 miles, circling Earth every 92 minutes. The next mission status report will be issued at 7 p.m. CDT.
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