Monday, March 07, 2011

Departure Day: Discovery Set To Head Home

Discovery and its six astronauts will depart the International Space Station today, flying a victory lap around the outpost before heading home for the final time.

The Star Trek theme song was beamed up to wake the crew at 3:23 a.m. to begin preparations for departure. William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original series, read a special message:

"Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."

The orbiter's departure time: 7 a.m. You can watch live here in The Flame Trench. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage. And be sure to refresh this page for periodic updates.

With pilot Eric Boe at the controls, the winged spaceship will back off to a point 400 to 600 feet away from the outpost before executing a looping fly-around of the complex.

Boe will be piloting his second station flyaround. His first was during a mission to the station in November 2008. But this one will be special.

"I will be appreciating every second, watching it, and really just trying to put it in my memory," Boe said in a preflight interview. "I will try to record all that in my memory banks so that I can play it back for years to come."

Discovery’s 39th and final flight is the 133rd shuttle mission and one of only three remaining before fleet retirement later this year. The shuttle and its crew are scheduled to land at 11:58 a.m. Wednesday.

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