The crews of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station (ISS) are saying goodbye today, concluding a week of joint operations that saw the addition of the 16-ton Destiny laboratory to the outpost and the transfer of about 3,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the complex.
Within two hours of their respective wakeup calls, Atlantis astronauts Ken Cockrell, Mark Polansky, Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones were scheduled to say farewell to Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev before closing hatches between the two craft in preparation for the undocking of Atlantis from the ISS.
With Pilot Polansky operating from Atlantis' aft flight deck, the Shuttle is scheduled to back away from the Station at 8:06 a.m. Central time as the two vehicles fly over the Western Pacific northeast of New Guinea. Polansky will maneuver Atlantis to a point about 400 feet directly below the Station as he begins a tail forward, half-lap flyaround of the ISS, enabling his crewmates to collect still photo and video documentation of the newly expanded Station in daylight. Polansky will fire Atlantis' jets one final time at around 8:45 a.m. to begin a slow seperation from the complex.
As Atlantis leaves the Station behind, Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev will spend time exercising prior to their regularly scheduled planning conferences with flight controllers in Moscow and Houston. They will continue to activate Destiny's systems early next week after off-duty time this weekend and will gear up for the relocation of their Soyuz vehicle from the aft docking port of the Zvezda module to the nadir docking port of the Zarya module in about a week. All three crewmembers will board the Soyuz for that operation, undock from the ISS and fly to the new docking port in a maneuver that will take just over an hour. That will enable a new Progress resupply vehicle to dock to Zvezda at the end of the month. On board the Shuttle, the crew will turn its attention to Sunday's planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center. On board the Shuttle, Ivins, Jones and Curbeam will begin early stowage activities in preparation for Atlantis' planned weekend homecoming.
All four of the Station's Control Moment Gyroscopes are once again back on line providing orientation control for the station. Gyroscope 2 was taken off line briefly yesterday to allow flight controllers to evaluate its performance following a momentary loss of commanding with Destiny's computers. It was quickly spun back up to its normal speed, but remained off line for a few hours as ISS flight controllers evaluated its performance. It automatically recovered communication capability and, at around 2:30 this morning, flight controllers returned it to full operation. Only two out of the four gyros mounted on the Z1 Truss are required for ISS attitude control.
Atlantis and the ISS are orbiting at an altitude of 237 statute miles with all of their systems operating normally. The next mission status report will be issued later today with full details of today's undocking.
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