Monday, May 30, 2011

Endeavour departs space station

Endeavour has left the International Space Station for the final time, though it will linger near it for a while.

Springs gently pushed the orbiter from its port at 11:55 p.m. EDT as the two spacecraft flew 215 miles above La Paz, Bolivia.

"Houston and station, we have physical separation," radioed Endeavour commander Mark Kelly.

Endeavour had been linked to the station for 11 days, 17 hours and 41 minutes since docking May 18, two days after blasting off from Kennedy Space Center.

A ship's bell rang inside the station as Endeavour pulled away.

"Endeavour departing," radioed Expedition 28 flight engineer Ron Garan. "Fair winds and following seas, guys."

"Thanks, Ron, appreciate all the help," replied Kelly.

"It was a pleasure serving with you boys," said Garan. 

Endeavour pilot Greg Johnson will soon guide the orbiter and its crew of six through a 360-degree flyaround of the station, the first since its assembly was declared complete.

Then Endeavour will loop several miles behind the station and fly back to within 600 feet in a few hours to test an automated docking and rendezvous system before finally heading home. Landing is planned at 2:35 a.m. June 1 at KSC.

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