The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 11:55 p.m. EDT Sunday evening, 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. Crewmembers took still and video images of the station, NASA reported. "Endeavour departing," said Expedition 28 Flight Engineer Ron Garan after the traditional ringing of the station's bell. "Fair winds and following seas."
As Johnson was about to begin the fly-around, Commander Mark Kelly radioed mission control that he could see the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) 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 fly-around 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 crewmembers, including Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, were scheduled for almost four hours of STORRM work.
In addition to the AMS, Endeavour left a substantial cargo carrier with spare parts on the outside of the station. It also delivered equipment and supplies to the station's interior. Shuttle crewmembers did four maintenance and installation spacewalks and considerable maintenance work inside the station.
This flight, Endeavour's last, is its 26th. Twelve of its missions have taken it to the station (and on one flight it visited the Russian space station Mir). The 12 missions are among 36 visits to the orbiting laboratory by shuttles. Orbiters have spent a total of almost 268 days docked there. Back at the station, Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko and Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Garan are getting some extra rest and shifting back to their regular schedule, NASA reported.
Among Endeavour's missions was the first to include four spacewalks, and then the first to include five. Its STS-67 mission set a length record of almost two full days longer than any shuttle mission before it. Its airlock is the only one to have seen three spacewalkers exit through it for a single spacewalk. And in its cargo bay, the first two pieces of the ISS were joined together. Endeavour is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 1:35 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.