Discovery Undocks from ISS, Heads Home
The space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station
Sept. 8, conducted a fly-around of the space station and then hit the thrusters
to head back to Earth. NASA anticipates a Sept. 10 landing at Kennedy
Pilot Kevin Ford undocked Discovery from the ISS at 3:26 p.m. EDT while the two spacecraft flew 223 miles above western China, near the Mongolian border. After backing Discovery away to a distance of 400 feet, Ford flew the craft around the station. The lap around the ISS allowed the shuttle crew to survey and photograph the 11-year-old orbiting complex.
Discovery will perform a maneuver to separate from the station's orbit at 5:09 p.m. EDT.
As usual for this mission to the ISS, Discovery did not depart without some glitches. The spacecraft's small thrusters were offline due to a leaky thruster, forcing the shuttle to use Discovery's larger thrusters during the fly-around. The mission, while successful, was plagued throughout the scheduled 13-day trip by stormy launch weather and faulty sensors.
During more than eight days docked at the ISS, the Discovery's crew delivered and unpacked more than 7 tons of supplies, science racks and equipment, as well as additional environmental hardware to sustain six crew members on the orbital outpost. Discovery is returning to Earth with more than 5,000 pounds of trash, surplus items and scientific experiments.
Over the course of three spacewalks, the Discovery crew replaced a large coolant tank and retrieved experiments from the station's hull, in addition to completing minor repair jobs.
The mission marked a crew change at the space station with NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott replacing Astronaut Tim Kopra, who had completed a two-month tour of duty aboard the ISS. Stott is scheduled for a three-month stay.
Discovery's crew also delivered the COLBERT (Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill), an exercise device named after comedian Stephen Colbert. Construction of the $5 million high-tech treadmill will not begin until after Discovery has departed.