After executing a textbook fly-around to view damaged areas of the Spektr module on the Mir Space Station, Atlantis’ astronauts separated from the Russian complex this afternoon, leaving behind U.S. Astronaut Dave Wolf and tons of logistical supplies and water for the next four months of scientific research.
Atlantis undocked from the Mir one orbit later than originally planned, at 12:28 p.m. CDT, as the two vehicles flew over southeast Russia just north of Mongolia. The delay in undocking was the result of a request by Russian flight controllers to enable the Mir cosmonauts to finish installing and testing a new data relay unit in the Kvant-1 module. The relay unit is designed to transmit commands from Mir’s new central computer to Kvant for operation of its automatic attitude control devices and its navigation antenna, which is used for automatic dockings of Progress resupply vehicles.
Pilot Mike Bloomfield flew Atlantis to a point 600 feet beneath and in front of the Russian station to gather data from a European Space Agency navigation sensor in the shuttle’s cargo bay. Bloomfield then brought Atlantis back to a point just 240 feet from Mir where he began his fly-around of the station.
Aboard Mir, Commander Anatoly Solovyev opened a pressure valve in the station’s node, blowing air into the depressurized Spektr module. Mission Specialist Vladimir Titov aboard Atlantis and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov aboard Mir both reported seeing particles seeping from the base of the damaged solar array on Spektr. Russian flight controllers suspect it is the most likely location for a hull breach as the result of a June 25 collision of a Progress vehicle with Mir.
A second pulse of air into Spektr 20 minutes later was less conclusive, as Titov and Solovyev reported seeing only one particle drifting from an unspecified area near Spektr.
With the visual inspection of Spektr complete, Bloomfield fired Atlantis’ jets to separate from the Mir for the final time at 3:16 p.m. CDT. The astronauts then settled down to several hours of off-duty time to relax following six days of joint docked operations. A second orbital adjust burn later in the afternoon open the separation rate to more than 100 miles per orbit. At 6:30 p.m. Atlantis was below and approximately 105 miles ahead of Mir.
Atlantis astronauts are due to begin their sleep period at 10:34 p.m., waking at 6:34 a.m. Saturday for entry preparations. Bloomfield and Commander Jim Wetherbee will conduct a flight control system checkout at 10:34 a.m. followed by a hot-fire test of the reaction control system at 11:44 a.m. CDT.
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