Monday, March 28, 2011

Space station crew bids farewell to Japan's supply craft

Space station astronauts release Japan's cargo craft. (NASA)

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station today released a trash-filled Japanese supply craft out into space on course for it's fiery reentry on Tuesday.

Docked with the Earth-facing port on the station's Harmony node, Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle was grappled by a 58-foot robotic arm at 4:11 a.m. EDT.

Sixteen bolts mating the craft with Harmony were then released allowing for NASA astronaut Cady Coleman to slowly move it out and away from her control board located in the Cupola module (above).

Coleman then unsnared the golden cargo craft releasing it from the station's arm at 11:46 a.m., as the two crafts sail 224 miles high over the eastern United States.

Loaded with nearly two tonnes of trash from recent resupply flights, the craft spent 59 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes docked with the Harmony node.

The Japanese cargo craft began separating "very stable" at a speed of 0.1 meters p
er second. Astronauts then sent commands to perform two burns (IDM 1 and 2) to separate it from the orbiting outpost minutes later to increase it's departure rate.

"It brought an amazing amount of supplies that were very much needed here on the space station," Coleman said following release.

Italian Paolo Nespoli and Coleman completed the last storage of trash into the H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 2, or "White Stork" in Japan, during the past week. Hatches were then closed and sealed between the Harmony node and the supply craft at about 10:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Colman and Nespoli also folded sheets of paper in the days leading to today to make origami cranes in sympathy and remembrance of those lost and suffering in Japan, and the country's work to rebuild from the tragedy.

The Japanese craft's departure was managed by the newly restored flight control room located in Tsukuba, twenty-five minutes by automobile northeast of Tokyo.

A control room which has several of their own
origami cranes sitting a top computers.

Wrought with damage from the earthquake on March 11, the control room performed it's first test after resuming control from NASA Mission Control.

The "White Stork" will sail for another day before making it's destructive fiery return to earth over the Pacific Ocean beginning at 11:09 p.m on Tuesday.

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