The seven member crew of Discovery will finish last minute stowage and transfers to the international space station this morning before closing their hatches and departing today following eight days of docked operations.
In what will be a thrill to the entire crew following undocking will be as they pull back to see the new look of the entire space station - the look how NASA artists have envisioned it would look going back over twenty years.
Discovery [above this morning] is to unlatch and depart her port-of-call at 3:53 pm EDT today. As Discovery slowly moves payload bay first away from the station, pilot Tony Antonelli will take his ship out about 400 feet and then begin a fly around [at 4:22 pm] of the huge, beautiful orbital complex. At about 5:37 pm, Discovery will fire her engines to make a final separation from the station.
Discovery's crew awoke minutes ago, at 6:13 am EDT, to the music Dirty Water for pilot Antonelli, as the shuttle- station complex flew high at the beginning of the orbiter's 150th orbit as it approached an orbital sunset.
Discovery's crew includes commander Lee Archambault along with Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Sandy Magnus. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata rode up to the station aboard Discovery and has now replaced Magnus to begin his three months in space. Magnus has been in space since her launch aboard Endeavour in November.
Weather permitting, Discovery is set to land back at the Kennedy Space Center this Saturday at 1:43 pm EDT, following nearly thirteen days in space.