Monday, March 07, 2011

Discovery Starts Victory Lap Around Station

Discovery pilot Eric Boe is starting a one-loop victory lap around the International Space Station as the shuttle heads into the home stretch of its 39th and final flight.

A few minutes after an on-time undocking at 7 a.m., station skipper Scott Belly rang a bell inside the outpost.

"Discovery departing," he said.

"We'll miss you guys," Discovery commander Steve Lindsey replied.

The bell-ringing is an old nautical tradition that was taken into space by the first crew of the outpost: Expedition One commander William Shepherd and flight engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev.

Discovery spent a total of eight days, 16 hours and 46 minutes docked at the station. Its 13th visit to the station end as the linked spacecraft separated 230 miles above the western Pacific Ocean north of Australia.

Boe started the fly-around once the shuttle was 400 feet away from the outpost. That distance will increase to about 600 feet as the flyaround unfolds.

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