With a gentle push from springs in the docking mechanism attaching it to the Russian Mir Space Station, Endeavour separated from the Russian Space Station at 10:57 a.m. Central time today to wrap up more than four days of joint operations and the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. Following a flyaround of the station to gather additional photography of the outpost, Pilot Joe Edwards conducted a final separation maneuver to allow Endeavour to drift away from the Mir, leaving behind U.S. astronaut Andy Thomas for the next four months of research along with about 4 tons of water, logistical supplies and scientific gear.
At the time of undocking today, the Endeavour-Mir space complex was orbiting overhead Kazakstan, home of the Baikonour Cosmodrome launch site, where 24 minutes earlier, the Mir 25 crew – Commander Talgat Musabayev, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and French researcher Leopold Eyharts – lifted off aboard their Soyuz TM-27 capsule en route to a Saturday rendezvous and linkup with Mir. Flight controllers notified STS-89 commander Terry Wilcutt of the launch and safe climb to orbit of the Soyuz spacecraft and its cosmonauts
Musabayev will guide the new Soyuz to its docking with the station Saturday at 12:13 p.m. Central time to begin a three-week handover to replace Mir 24 Commander Anatoly Solovyev and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov, who are scheduled to return to Earth on Feb. 19 with Eyharts following his three weeks of scientific research for the French space agency.
With the joint phase of the mission concluded, Endeavour’s seven-member crew will turn its attention to final stowage of the items transferred from Mir to Endeavour for the return trip to Earth tomorrow, and will continue science activity in the Spacehab module.
The early weather forecast for Saturday’s scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center at 4:35 p.m. Central time calls for clear skies, and as a result, mission managers have elected not to call up landing support at Endeavour’s backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base, California. If Endeavour lands as planned on Saturday, astronaut Dave Wolf, now a member of the STS-89 crew, will have spent 128 days in space, 119 days as a Mir crew member.
Endeavour is orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 210 nautical miles with all of its systems functioning normally. The astronauts will begin an extended nine-hour sleep period at 9:48 p.m. Central time. They’ll be awakened at 6:48 a.m. Friday to begin the routine checkout of orbiter systems for Saturday’s return to Earth.
The next STS-89 status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Central time Friday.
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