From: Johnson Space Center
Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
HOUSTON - Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday, marking the end of shuttle visits to the orbiting laboratory that owes much of its existence to the 37 flights they made to help build and maintain it.
The 1:28 a.m. undocking ended an Atlantis stay at the station of eight days, 15 hours and 21 minutes. All in all, Atlantis and its sister shuttles spent a total of 276 days, 11 hours and 23 minutes docked at the station.
After undocking, Atlantis moved slowly away, to a point about 600 feet ahead of the station, Pilot Doug Hurley paused Atlantis before beginning a final fly around that was in some ways a first. Before Atlantis began the half loop around the station, the orbiting laboratory changed its orientation by rotating 90 degrees to the right.
That gave Atlantis video and still cameras a chance to photograph areas of the station not normally documented in previous fly-arounds. The images will be evaluated by experts on the ground to get additional information on the station's conditions.
Teams in both flight control rooms were working their last shuttle shift. Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson thanked the orbit 1 team of shuttle flight controllers. He urged them to pause a moment on their way out and "make a memory."
From the station flight control room, astronaut and Capcom Dan Tani, himself a former station crew member, told Ferguson that it had been "a pleasure and an honor" to support the mission. "We are proud to be the last of a countless line of mission control teams" who have watched while shuttles visited the ISS. "The ISS wouldn't be here without the shuttle."
"It's been an incredible ride", replied Ferguson. "On behalf of the four of us, we're really appreciative we had the opportunity to work with you on this pivotal mission."
After completing the half loop, Atlantis did two separation burns, the second at 3:18 a.m. to move away from the station.
After their midday meal, Ferguson, Hurley and Mission Specialist Sandra Magnus did the late survey of Atlantis' heat shield, focused on the reinforced carbon carbon of the wing leading edges and the nose cap. They used the shuttle robotic arm and its 50-foot orbiter boom sensor system to look first at the starboard wing, then the nose cap and finally the port wing.
Data from the survey will be transmitted to the ground for evaluation by experts.
Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space center just before 5 a.m. on Thursday.
The next status report will be issued after crew wakeup, scheduled for 8:59 p.m. Tuesday.
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