Monday, May 23, 2011

Soyuz departs space station to set up photo op

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American, Russian and Italian undocked from the International Space Station at 5:35 p.m. EDT.

It's the first-ever departure of a Soyuz vehicle while a shuttle is docked at the station.

Cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev is manually backing the spacecraft to a distance of about 600 feet, where he'll pause at 5:41 p.m. to set up a historic photo opportunity.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will unstrap from his seat and climb into the uppermost of three Soyuz modules.

About 20 minutes after the undocking, the space station will begin a 15-minute, 129-degree rotation to maneuver shuttle Endeavour into clear view of digital and video cameras Nespoli will hold.

Nespoli aims to capture the first-ever picture of the entire station with a shuttle docked to it, during what may be the only opportunity to capture the images before the shuttle program ends.

By 6:15 p.m., the Soyuz will fire thrusters to separate from the station and begin a roughly four-hour journey to a landing in Kazakhstan.

Also aboard, American Cady Coleman.

The trio's departure ended Expedition 27 and marked the start of Expedition 28, where three crew members remain along with the six Endeavour astronauts.

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