Science and Technology News

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Endeavour Prepares for Return Home

Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 11:55 p.m. EDT Sunday, ending a stay of 11 days, 17 hours and 41 minutes at the orbiting laboratory.

Pilot Greg Johnson, at the aft flight deck controls, flew Endeavour in a circle around the station at distances of about 450 to 650 feet. Crew members took still and video images of the station.

As Johnson was about to begin the flyaround, Commander Mark Kelly radioed mission control that he could see the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle physics detector Endeavour had brought to orbit. "It's a new day for science on the space station," he said to mission control.

After the flyaround and a separation burn, Kelly took the controls for a test of an automated rendezvous and docking system called STORRM, for Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation. Endeavour moved about 20,000 feet above and behind the station, then to a point below and behind it.

Kelly subsequently maneuvered the shuttle on a rendezvous-like course, winding up at a point about 950 feet below the station. There the shuttle did a separation burn, beginning its departure from the area with the STORRM sensors still tracking the station until contact was lost. Initial reports were that the test had produced good data. All Endeavour crew members, including Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, were scheduled for almost four hours of STORRM work.

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