Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Watch live: station set for farewell ceremony

The crews of space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station are in their final half-hour together.

At 10:23 a.m., they plan to hold a brief farewell ceremony before seven Endeavour astronauts crawl through their hatch for the last time and get ready to undock from the station.

You can watch the ceremony live here - just click on the NASA TV still image on the right column of this page to launch a viewer.

The shuttle crew includes one new member, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is ending a 133-day stay on the station. He was replaced as a flight engineer on the Expedition 20 crew by American Tim Kopra, who flew up on Endeavour.

Wakata flew up to the station on shuttle Discovery in March. His was the first long-duration stay in space by a Japanese astronaut.

He will be joined in the orbiter by mission commander Mark Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Chris Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Julie Payette of the Canadian Space Agency and Dave Wolf.

The crew, which awoke at 3:03 a.m. to the tune of "Proud to be an American" performed by Lee Greenwood, has been busy packing things in preparation for a 1:26 p.m. undocking.

Polansky wrote last night in a Twitter post, just posted by NASA, that he was sorry to go: "Last night docked to ISS. Very sad to leave 6 great folks, but also great to come home soon."

Staying behind on the station with Kopra are Expedition 20 commander Genneady Padalka of Russia and countryman Roman Romanenko, American Mike Barrett, Canadian Bob Thirsk and Belgian Frank De Winne.

Endeavour's 11-day stay on the station marked the first time 13 people had occupied the same spacecraft in orbit.

Now the station will return to its normal complement of six crewmembers.

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