Monday, March 07, 2011

Discovery Crew Departs Station Vicinity

Discovery's astronauts capped a looping flyaround of the International Space Station today with a final thruster burn that propelled the winged spaceship toward its 39th and final landing.

Armed with high-definition video and still cameras, the shuttle astronauts spent about an hour capturing images of the sprawling station -- which is a little larger since Discovery's crew added the last pressurized module on the U.S. side of the complex.

"We got some amazing shots up here," one of the shuttle crewmembers told fellow astronaut Stephen Robinson in NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston.

"Excellent, and it was amazing enough just on video here," Robinson replied.

Station skipper Scott Kelly radioed Discovery commander Steve Lindsey before the shuttle crew departed the vicinity, saying how much he appreciated having guests for the first time in his 150-odd days on the outpost.

"Hey, Steve, since you guys are heading home, I wanted to just say it one last time -- we really enjoyed your company onboard, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished together as a team here on the space station," Kelly said.

He also tipped his hat to "the larger team in Houston and all the control centers around the world."

"The space program is really exceptionally complicated, and so it really takes a team effort, and that’s what I think we’ve proven here this past week," he said. "Enjoy the rest of your flight and have a safe landing."

Discovery and its crew are slated to land at Kennedy Space Center at 11:58 a.m. Wednesday.

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