With a gentle push, Atlantis and the International Space Station parted company this evening as the two spacecraft flew 237 miles over Kazakhstan concluding five days of work to prepare the outpost for its first resident crew.
Undocking occurred at 6:03 p.m. Central time, as Pilot Scott Horowitz slowly backed Atlantis away from the space station and then flew a half-circle around the station, before firing Atlantis' jets in a final separation burn at 6:41 p.m. Atlantis' crew leaves behind a refurbished and rejuvenated space station with four new batteries, 10 new smoke detectors, and four new cooling fans in the Zarya module, a revamped communications system in the Unity module and 1 ½ tons of other supplies, including clothing and water.
Now flying solo, the seven-member Atlantis crew will enjoy several hours of off-duty time tonight in recognition of the ambitious pace of work they maintained throughout this flight. Commander Jim Halsell, Horowitz, and Mission Specialists Jeff Williams, Mary Ellen Weber, Jim Voss, Susan Helms and Yury Usachev will power down some of the equipment used during today's undocking and flyaround, and then will perform some routine housekeeping tasks before beginning their scheduled off duty time.
Toward the end of the crew's day, Usachev will take some time to talk with Russian media gathered at the Russian Mission Control Center just outside of Moscow in an event scheduled at 4:26 a.m. Central time Saturday morning. Usachev, along with crewmates Voss and Helms, will visit the station again next year to spend more than four months on board as the second resident crew scheduled to live on board.
The station is now in the optimum orbit to await the arrival of the next major station component -- a Russian-built living quarters that will launch in July -- flying in an orbit with a high point of 238 miles and a low point of 230 miles, circling the Earth every 92 minutes.
The next mission status report will be issued at 7 a.m. Central time.
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