Friday, February 19, 2010

Hatches closed, Endeavour set for Station Undocking

Patrick pauses to enjoy the view out cupola yesterday. (NASA)

The hatches between the International Space Station and shuttle Endeavour were closed this morning in preparation for this evening's undocking following ten days of joint operations.

The hatches between the two crafts were sealed and locked at 3:08 am EST this morning, following a brief farewell ceremony in which the five Expedition 22 crew members on station gave hugs and handshakes to Endeavour's crew of six.

Endeavour's crew led by commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken, arrived at station at midnight on Feb. 10, and added two new sections to the orbital outpost -- Tranquility node and the cupola observation platform.

Late last night -- which is the middle of the day space station time -- the two crews gathered in the newly installed Tranquility for a ribbon cutting ceremony to commission the cupola platform.

Floating next to station commander Jeffery Williams, Zamka spoke to the planet earth these words, "We are here in Tranquility standing above the cupola to formally open the cupola for use by other crews that will be here on the space station. Arguably, mankind has been after this view for centuries, this perspective, this view of the world. And we finally have it, and we're going to take advantage and enjoy it."

The ceremony also addressed the small moon rocks which were brought up to station on Endeavour's flight and will be housed in the cupola "as a reminder of man's reach and man's grit as they go out and explore," Zamka added.

The space station's description of the cupola as their "window on the world" not only means the beautiful 360-degree observation of earth and the space around, but will serve as a 'crow's nest' for incoming manned and unmanned spacecraft as well.

Endeavour is set to conclude a day multifaceted flight on Sunday evening. The orbiter will begin firing her twin breaking engines to begin the drop out of orbit at 9:13 pm. Landing is planned at the start of the 218th revolution of the earth on Runway 15 here at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:16 pm -- the first of two landing opportunities. The back-up landing time is on the next orbit at 11:51 pm.

NASA's mission management team will call up the Edwards, AFB landing site for Sunday night as well due to unfavorable current weather trends along the Space Coast. will carry LIVE television of the entire mission, including Sunday's landing.

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