Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Live in Orbit: Discovery departs space station

Space shuttle Discovery gently shoved away from the International Space Station on time at 3:26 p.m. to begin its journey home to Kennedy Space Center.

As the two spacecraft flew 223 miles above western China, hooks and latches opened and springs pushed the shuttle from its docking port, starting to separate the shuttle at a rate of one-tenth of a foot per second.

At a distance of about 75 feet, shuttle thrusters were to increase the separation rate.

When the shuttle reaches a distance of about 600 feet from the station, pilot Kevin Ford will begin a three-qurater loop around the station so the shuttle crew can take photographs to document its condition.

Discovery docked at the station Aug. 30 and delivered more than 18,000 pounds of supplies and hardware, most of it packed in a giant "moving van" module.

The shuttle spent a total of eight days, 19 hours and 32 minutes docked at the orbiting science complex.

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