Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Live: Flyaround complete, Endeavour sets sail

Blogger update, 3:09 p.m.: Endeavour has completed the day's second separation burn, lasting 42 seconds, and will fly to a distance of 46 miles from the space station.

Space shuttle Endeavour has fired its jets for the first of two burns that will separate it from the International Space Station.

The six-second maneuver followed pilot Doug Hurley's completion of a loop around the station that offered stunning views of the outpost against the backdrop of space, the blue Pacific Ocean and a cloud covered Atlantic Ocean.

Before the thruster burn, shuttle and station crews had a last parting exchange.

"To our friends on the International Space Station, we'd like to go ahead and bid you farewell, and fair sailing ahead guys until the end of your increment," said Endeavour commander Mark "Roman" Polansky. "It's been a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of the mission with you. So we'll see you when you get home."

"Thanks very much, Roman, it was an absolute pleasure hosting you," replied American astronaut and station flight engineer Mike Barratt. "You made us bigger and better and we were really glad to have you here. It seems awfully quiet here now without you. And we will be watching your landing with great anticipation. God speed you on your way home."

During their flyaround, cameras aboard Endeavour clearly showed the gleaming white porch they installed on Japan's Kibo science lab during a nearly 11-day stay at the station that included five spacewalks.

As the sun's angle changed, the station's four sets of solar array wings shifted between silver and gold hues on either side of the cluster of silver pressurized living quarters and science labs.

Endeavour was scheduled to fire its jets a second time at 3:09 p.m. The planned 42-second burn will increase Endeavour's speed by about 10 feet per second, taking the shuttle to about 50 miles from the station.

Endeavour will pause there and get ready for heat shield inspections early Wednesday.

Editor's Note: For the second consecutive day, two major NASA news events are happening at once and you can watch both live here in The Flame Trench today.

For live coverage of the Human Space Flight Plans committee, you can click here to open the live video feed of NASA TV's Media Channel.

For live coverage of the ongoing space shuttle mission and undocking, you can click here to open the live video feed of NASA TV's Public Channel.

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