Following an emotional farewell, the crews of Atlantis and the International Space Station closed the hatches of their spacecraft concluding a week of joint operations, that saw the transfer of about 1,800 pounds of supplies and hardware to the station, and the addition of the 15 ton, 45-foot long Starboard One (S1) truss segment continuing the station's expansion.
Following undocking, Pilot Pam Melroy flew Atlantis a partial lap around the station, as her crewmates used cameras to document its latest addition and overall condition. At 10 a.m., she fired Atlantis' engines in a final separation maneuver, leaving the Expedition Five crew - Commander Valery Korzun, NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Sergei Treschev - to continue stowing away many of the items that were transferred over the past week and preparing for the early November arrival of a new Soyuz return vehicle, and its visiting crew.
Flying solo, the focus on board Atlantis is on preparing for a return trip to Earth on Friday. Commander Jeff Ashby, Melroy and flight engineer Sandy Magnus will check out Atlantis' flight control systems and test fire its reaction control system jets in preparation for re-entry and landing. The entire crew also will begin packing up the cameras, equipment and hardware they've used over the course of the past 10 days in space.
The Atlantis crew will be awakened at 2:16 a.m. to begin what should be its final full day in orbit with landing scheduled for 10:44 a.m. CDT Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Expedition Five crew will awaken at 3:30 a.m., settling into a slightly later than normal shift to support the upcoming visits of the Soyuz taxi crew and Space Shuttle Endeavour.
The next STS-112 status report will be issued Thursday morning, or sooner if events warrant.
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