Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station today, leaving behind the Expedition 6 crew -- Commander Ken Bowersox, NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin -- to begin its four-month stay.
After final farewells among the STS-113 and Expedition 5 and 6 crews, the hatches between the spacecraft were closed at 11:57 a.m. CST. Following a series of pressure and leak checks, Endeavour gently undocked from the station at 2:05 p.m. as the two spacecraft flew over northwestern Australia. Total docked time for the mission was six days, 22 hours and six minutes.
As Endeavour departed the station, Bowersox rang the ship's bell on board and wished the crew a safe landing. Endeavour Commander Jim Wetherbee wished the Expedition 6 crew "fair winds." After a one-quarter-lap fly-around of the station, Pilot Paul Lockhart fired a final separation burn of Endeavour's engines at 3:01 p.m. and began its final departure from the station.
All major mission objectives were accomplished during Endeavour's stay at the ISS. The 14-ton Port One truss segment, one of 11 such structures that will form the station's backbone, was delivered and installed over the course of three spacewalks by Mission Specialists Michael Lopez-Alegria and John Herrington, and the station crews were exchanged. With its latest addition, the station's mass stands at 197 tons, or about 400,000 pounds. Returning home after spending 178 days on the station is the Expedition 5 crew -- Commander Valery Korzun, NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Sergei Treschev.
At 4:05 p.m., Endeavour's crew released two miniature satellites as part of an experiment referred to as MEPSI. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the two small satellites, which are tethered together, were released from Endeavour's payload bay to fly free for three days as a technology demonstration of the launcher assembly and use of micro- and nano-technologies in space systems.
The focus of activities aboard Endeavour on Tuesday will include a checkout of the systems that will be used during Wednesday's planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour is scheduled to land at 2:48 p.m., bringing Korzun, Whitson and Treschev home after 182 days in space. Weather for landing is forecasted to be questionable. The next STS-113 mission status report will be issued Tuesday morning or earlier if events warrant.
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