Discovery crew safely back on Earth
22 December 2006 7:15 p.m. EST

STS-116 commander Mark Polansky, pilot Bill Oefelein, NASA mission specialists Robert Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham, and Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang have exited shuttle Discovery, conducted the traditional "walkaround" of the orbiter and made a few brief remarks at the microphone at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

The returning member of the ISS Expedition 14 crew, flight engineer Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency, remained within the air-conditioned confines of the crew transport vehicle after exiting the orbiter to slowly acclimate his body to gravity after almost 6 months of weightlessness.

Discovery safely touched down at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), just two minutes after sunset, on its primary landing strip, runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, following a successful assembly mission to the International Space Station. Discovery completed 204 orbits of the earth, traveling 5,330,000 miles during its voyage of 12 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes.

After landing, Polansky told Mission Control in Houston, "Seven thrilled people right here. We're just really proud of the entire NASA team that put this together. Thank you ... and I think it's going to be a great holiday."

The seven crew members will be driven back to the astronaut quarters for medical tests and preliminary de-briefings. They will then return home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Saturday for a welcome home ceremony.

Mission managers waved-off Discovery's first Florida landing opportunity and the shuttle seemed destined for a western U.S. landing when weather conditions along the Space Coast dramatically improved - just moments before the scheduled de-orbit burn - allowing the spaceplane's return to the Kennedy Space Center, just in time for the holidays. Ironically, a previously-monitored band of rain showers made an appearance over the shuttle runway, drizzling just as the astronauts began the post-landing inspection of their spacecraft.

The next mission to the International Space Station will be STS-117 with shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for launch no-earlier-than March 16, 2007.

- Roger Guillemette


 

 

Shuttle Discovery lands safely in Florida

22 December 2006 5:32 p.m. EST

Shuttle Discovery has safely landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, ending a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery touched down at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), just two minutes after sunset, on runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, where weather conditions took a dramatic turn for-the-better to allow the spaceplane's return to Florida.

Commander Mark Polansky and pilot Bill Oefelein guided the orbiter on its fiery plunge through the atmosphere and hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth, then precisely executed a series of turns and banking maneuvers that slowed the vehicle for its powerless landing on the 3-mile long paved runway at the Kennedy Space Center.

A convoy of landing support vehicles is now approaching the orbiter to 'safe' the vehicle following landing and allow the astronauts to exit.

- Roger Guillemette


Discovery headed for Florida homecoming
22 December 2006 5:00 p.m. EST

 

Shuttle Discovery has ignited its braking rockets and started a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere and a long, gliding descent to the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility to end its 13-day mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle will land at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), just two minutes after sunset.

Discovery completed a 3-minute, 46-second firing of its twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines that began at 4:26 p.m. EST to reduce the shuttle's velocity sufficiently to drop it out of orbit and begin an hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth.  Remaining propellant onboard the vehicle has been dumped through the forward thrusters located in Discovery's nose.

The Orbiter is now encountering the upper fringes of the atmosphere at about 400,000 feet in altitude, to be followed by a series of turns and banking maneuvers to slow the vehicle for its powerless touchdown on the Shuttle Landing Facility's 3-mile long northwest-to-southeast runway 15. Commander Mark Polansky and Pilot Bill Oefelein will guide Discovery through a 330-degree left overhead turn above the Kennedy Space Center to align the spacecraft with the runway - twin sonic booms will announce the arrival of the 225,000-pound orbiter.

A convoy of landing support vehicles is making its way to the landing strip to await Discovery's touchdown.

Weather conditions along Florida's Space Coast took a dramatic turn for the better - just moments before the scheduled de-orbit burn - as flight controllers gained confidence that a band of approaching showers would dissipate before the orbiter's scheduled approach and landing. Forecast conditions are few clouds at 6,000 feet, scattered at 14,000 feet, overcast at 25,000 feet - all within allowable limits - with winds forecast at 16 knots, peaking at 22 knots, right down runway 15.

 

- Roger Guillemette


Space Shuttle Discovery Bound for Florida Landing
22 December 2006 4:20 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's space shuttle Discovery is bound for Earth for a Florida landing and will fire its engines to leave orbit.

The maneuver will come at 4:26 p.m. EST (2126 GMT) after back and forth bounces between landing option choices by Mission Control.

"You are a good man, Hawk," Discovery's STS-116 commander Mark Polansky told NASA astronaut Ken Ham, who told the shuttle crew the news from Mission Control.

Discovery's STS-116 crew, commanded by veteran astronaut Mark Polansky, are now due to land at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT) as the Sun sets.                             

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

- Tariq Malik


NASA Eyes Florida Landing, California Winds Arise Anew
22 December 2006 4:01 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA is again taking a closer look at a Florida landing for its seven Discovery shuttle astronauts.

Flight controllers had primed Discovery's STS-116 crew for a landing at California's Edwards Air Force Base, but high winds there appeared to gain strength after initially subsiding.

Now Discovery will aim for Kennedy Space Center, and must fire its engines no later than 4:26 p.m. EST (2126 GMT) in order to land at NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility here.

This will be NASA's final window to land at KSC, before having to select between Edwards and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. NASA has only landed once in White Sands during STS-3 aboard Columbia in 1982.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

- Tariq Malik


NASA Keeps Options Open for Shuttle Landing
22 December 2006 3:49 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA has sent preliminary data to astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery for a possible landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, but remains optimistic that the weather will ease above its Kennedy Space Center here.

"Believe it or not, we're still debating landing sites," NASA astronaut Ken Ham told Discovery's crew from Mission Control.

Discovery actually has three possible landing sites ahead:

n       Edwards Air Force Base at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT)

n       White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT)

n       Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT).

NASA is hoping to set the orbiter down at either Edwards or, more optimistically, KSC.

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

 

- Tariq Malik


Weather Appears to Ease for Shuttle Landing
22 December 2006 3:20 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Mission Control has given the seven astronauts aboard the Discovery orbiter the go ahead to begin drinking down 32 ounces of fluid to replenish those lost during their 13-day mission.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Ken Ham, serving as spacecraft communicator, has alerted STS-116 commander Mark Polansky that high winds blowing at Edwards Air Force Base -- Discovery's next available port of call -- appear to be easing.

The cloud and rain threat here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center also appears to be dropping slightly, improving the conditions for a potential shuttle landing, Ham said.

If NASA opts for an Edwards landing, Discovery will fire its engines to leave orbit at 4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT) for a touchdown of about 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT).

Should the space agency choose KSC, the shuttle will fire its engines at 4:26 p.m. EST (2126  GMT).

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

Astronauts Prepare for Second Landing Attempt
22 December 2006 3:14 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery are preparing for their second landing attempt of the day as the near the end of their planned 13-day mission.

Discovery's STS-116 crew is due to land no earlier than 5:27 p.m. EST (2257 GMT), with the first opportunity opening at Edwards Air Force Base in California, then another at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

While the weather looks bleak at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Discovery does have a landing window here at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), which would coincide with sunset here at the seaside spaceport.

To aim for Edwards, Discovery commander Mark Polansky must fire the orbiter's engines at about 4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT) to brake the spacecraft and send on an Earthward path.

NASA astronaut Dom Gorie is currently flying a series of approaches at Edwards Air Force Base to measure its crosswind levels - the only concern that the backup shuttle landing site. Gorie is piloting a Shuttle Training Aircraft that mimics an orbiter's flight characteristics.

Here at KSC, NASA's chief astronaut Steven Lindsey - who last commanded Discovery during NASA's STS-121 mission in July - is also aboard a Shuttle Training Aircraft to continuously monitor the weather for a possible second landing attempt.

At White Sands Space Harbor, astronaut Brent Jett - who led NASA's STS-115 mission immediately before the current spaceflight - is monitoring conditions there, where weather appears optimal.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Discovery Waved Off First Landing Attempt
22 December 2006 2:11 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Unstable weather and incoming rain has forced NASA to wave off the first landing attempt for the space shuttle Discovery today.

The next landing opportunity is at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

NASA astronaut Ken Ham in Mission Control told Discovery's STS-116 crew that rain was expected within 30 miles of their landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center, which is prohibited for landing under the agency's flight rules.

A similar weather outlook is expected during Discovery's second -- and last -- KSC landing opportunity of the day at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT).

A White Sands landing, which has a clear weather outlook, is also available at about 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT).

NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston told Discovery's STS-116 crew that weather forecasts are looking grimmer for their primary landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Weather Worsens for Shuttle's Florida Landing Site
22 December 2006 1:48 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA astronaut Ken Ham at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston told Discovery's STS-116 crew that weather forecasts are looking grimmer for their primary landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center.

"The new word for Florida is unstable," Ham told Discovery's STS-116 commander Mark Polansky. "The official forecast has been degraded to showers within 30 [miles]...however, we like to keep the hope alive."

NASA flight rules prohibit shuttle landings at KSC with rain showers within a 30-mile perimeter of the target runway.

Ham said flight controllers are not yet waving the crew off their first landing attempt, but have asked them to delay their "fluid loading" - in which they drink large amounts of fluid to prepare for their return to gravity.

For fluid loading, each astronaut is usually tasked with gulping down about 40 ounces of liquid, or eight ounces every 15 minutes, and taking salt pills to recover from the effects of weightlessness.

"Thanks for keeping us in the loop," Polansky replied.

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Astronauts Suit Up for Earth Return
22 December 2006 1:20 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The seven astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are donning their bright orange launch and entry suits in preparation for today's planned landing here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery's STS-116 commander Mark Polansky is already clad in his partially pressurized entry suit and has taken his seat in the front left of the orbiter's flight deck.

Six of Discovery's seven-astronaut crew will return to Earth while sitting in an upright position. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, however, is returning from a half-year stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Reiter will ride back to Earth in a special recumbent seat designed to ease his return to gravity after a long-duration spaceflight.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Landing Preparations Continue for Discovery Crew
22 December 2006 1:05 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Less than three hours separate NASA's shuttle Discovery astronauts from an afternoon landing here at the Kennedy Space Center, but only if the weather cooperates.

Discovery's STS-116 crew is due to land at 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT). NASA's chief astronaut Steve Lindsey is at the controls of one of the space agency's Shuttle Training Aircraft and will begin flying a series of runway approaches here at the Shuttle Landing Facility to evaluate conditions for today's planned descent.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

 

Discovery Shuttle's Payload Bay Doors Closed
22 December 2006 12:40 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Both of Discovery's 60-foot payload bay doors are now closed, as the orbiter is prepared for today's landing attempts.

Weather remains at a concern, though the shuttle is still targeted to land here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT).

A microswitch error is thought to have caused the initial indication that the orbiter's starboard payload bay door was not latched properly, Mission Control said.

Click here for SPACE.com's landing preview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

 

Astronauts to Close Payload Bay Doors
22 December 2006 12:25 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The starboard payload bay door aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery is folded into its closed position, and astronauts are checking to ensure it is properly battened down.

Closing the shuttle's two payload bay doors, which are lined with radiators used while in orbit, is one of milestones leading up today's planned landing.

Discovery remains scheduled to land here at the Kennedy Space Center at 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT), with backup landing sites available at California's Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

Shuttle's Return to be a 'Dynamic Day,' Commander Says
22 December 2006 11:25 a.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - As NASA's space shuttle Discovery prepares to return to Earth today, little has changed in terms of its weather chances, astronaut Ken Ham, at the space agency's Mission Control, has told the orbiter's STS-116 crew.

Ham, serving as spacecraft communicatory, told Discovery commander Mark Polansky that winds are a bit higher than expected at the orbiter's Kennedy Space Center target, but landing there is still possibly despite the threat of nearby rain showers and low clouds."

"Copy," Polansky said. "Copy," Polansky said. "It's going to be a dynamic day for you guys."

Discovery is due to land here at the Kennedy Space Center at 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT), with backup landing sites available at California's Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Astronauts Prepare for Landing
22 December 2006 9:00 a.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Seven astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are preparing to head home today.

Mission Control awoke the astronauts in honor of their holiday arrival with "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays."

"Good morning Discovery, we hope you agree with us that there's no place like home for the holidays because we hope to see you back here on Earth later this afternoon,"  NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, based in NASA's Mission Control in Houston, Texas, radioed up to Discovery's crew.

"Shannon we can't agree more, so thanks for that," Discovery's STS-116 mission commander Mark Polansky said. "We'll be looking forward to seeing you and everybody else back home hopefully today and we'll get back to Houston tomorrow."

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Discovery Astronauts Deploy Small Satellites
21 December 2006 1:36 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery successfully launched two small, spherical satellites designed to measure the affects of atmospheric drag on spacecraft, though one appears to be stuck in its housing.

Dubbed ANDE -- short for Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment -- the two near-perfect spheres were deployed in a canister that shot away from the Integrated Cargo Carrier in Discovery's payload bay at 1:23 p.m. EST (1823 GMT).

While both spheres were expected to pop out of their canister housing, only one was visible in video views.

The ANDE experiment is part of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program.

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Astronauts Prepare for Friday Landing
21 December 2006 11:36 a.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Seven astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are working through a flight systems check and thruster tests one day before their planned landing after a 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The astronauts awoke at 7:17 a.m. EST (1217 GMT) to the tune of "A Road Less Traveled" by Joe Sample, apparently chosen for STS-116 mission specialist Joan Higginbotham.

"Good morning, Discovery!" NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid called up to the shuttle from Mission Control. "And Discovery, we would certainly have to agree with Joanie, that your trip has been 'the road less traveled.'"

"[I]t's great to hear some, good to have some Houston's own incomparable Joe Sample," Higginbotham replied. "He'll help us ease into the last few days of this mission."

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

Shuttle Astronauts Deploy Second Satellite Payload
20 December 2006 9:00 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - STS-116 mission specialists Joan Higginbotham and Christer Fuglesang have successfully deployed the second of two microsatellite payloads of their orbital day.

Two five-inch cube satellites, part of the Radar Fence Transponder (RAFT) mission, popped out of their spring-loaded housing in Discovery's payload bay at about 8:56 p.m. EST (0156 Dec. 21 GMT).

The payload, actually a pair of small, five-inch cubes, are designed to test thee limits of the U.S. Space Surveillance systems in Arizona, Alabama and Texas. They were built by students at the U.S. Naval Laboratory.

 

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

Discovery Crew Launches Tiny Satellites
20 December 2006 7:41 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Shuttle astronauts Christer Fuglesang and Joan Higginbotham successfully deployed the MEPSI mission, a pair of camera-equipped spacecraft aimed at determining the feasibility of low-power inspection vehicles to study larger satellites.

Dubbed MEPSI, a short version of its lengthy moniker Microelectromechanical System-Based (MEMS) PICOSAT Inspector, the mission features two coffee cup-sized vehicles tethered together.

Deployment of the spring-launched military experiment occurred at about 7:19 p.m. EST (0019 Dec. 21 GMT). A second experiment dubbed RAFT - or Radar Fence Transponder -- includes the jettison of two five-inch cubes, each of which carries a transponder to be detected by the military's space surveillance system and is designed to relay data packets and messages, NASA officials said.

RAFT is set to deploy at about 8:56 p.m. EST (0156 Dec 21 GMT).

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Astronauts Survey Port Wing
20 December 2006 3:37 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - More than two-thirds complete with today's Discovery heat shield inspection, NASA's STS-116 astronauts are now scanning their orbiter's port wing.

The scan comes after completed surveys of Discovery's nose cap and starboard, or right, wing.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's story on today's late inspection.

Watch a video description of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Discovery Crew Scans Shuttle Nose Cap
20 December 2006 2:21 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery have completed a second survey of their orbiter's nose cap and are breaking for lunch before tacking the last leg of their heat shield late inspection.

Discovery's STS-116 crew completed the nose cap survey at about 2:20 p.m. EST (1920 GMT). They will resume the inspection with a scan of Discovery's left wing leading edge to complete today's survey.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's story on today's late inspection.

Watch a video description of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Astronauts Scan Shuttle Heat Shield
20 December 2006 1:51 p.m. EST

                               

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are scanning their orbiter's heat shield for any signs of damage by space rocks or orbital debris.

Known as a late inspection, the survey is identical to the scan performed by Discovery's STS-116 crew during its second day in orbit on Dec. 10. It features the use of the orbiter's sensor-laden boom extension of Discovery's robotic arm [video].

Discovery's crew completed inspecting the orbiter's right wing leading edge at about 12:52 p.m. EST (1752 GMT). A survey of the orbiter's nose cap is underway, and will be followed by a look at the orbiter's left wing leading edge.

The STS-116 crew awoke at 7:47 am. EST (1247 GMT) to the tune of "Say You'll Be Mine" by Christopher Cross, a song chosen for mission specialist Thomas Reiter.

"Good morning, Discovery!  And good morning, Thomas, welcome to the Discovery crew," NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, serving as spacecraft communicator, radioed to the STS-116 crew after wake up. "And we are looking forward to seeing you here back on planet Earth just real soon."

Click here for SPACE.com's story on today's late inspection.

Watch a video description of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Discovery Departs Space Station
19 December 2006 6:00 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discovery has passed over the top of the International Space Station (ISS) as pilot William Oefelein guides the orbiter away from the orbital laboratory.

Cameras aboard the ISS returned crisp views of the departing shuttle, while their counterparts aboard Discovery did the same of the station.

Discovery has successfully fired its first engine burn to pull away from the ISS. A final separation burn is set for 6:52 p.m. EST (0152 Dec. 20 GMT).

"For Alpha, from the crew of Discovery, we wish you smooth sailing," Discovery's STS-116 commander Mark Polansky radioed as the shuttle departed. "We hope you enjoy the new electrical system we installed."

This concludes our live coverage of Discovery's undocking from the ISS. A wrap story will be posted to the SPACE.com home page shortly.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Partial ISS Flyaround Underway by Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 5:41 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - Shuttle pilot William Oefelein is guiding the Discovery orbiter in a partial trip around the International Space Station.

The maneuver, which carries Discovery up and over the ISS as it departs, will return images of the station in its new configuration.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle's Departure Offers New Space Station View
19  December 2006 5:33 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - A camera inside Discovery's docking mechanism is offering a new view of the International Space Station (ISS).

The orbiter is nearing the 400-foot mark ahead of the ISS as it backs away from its berth at the tip of the outpost's U.S. Destiny module.

The space station appears strikingly different, with one solar array furled and a new spacer segment attached to its port side.

If you are watching NASA TV currently, the furled array appears as stump atop the station's mast-like Port 6 truss. The new segment, the Port 5 truss, is at the right of the two solar arrays on the right side of the screen.

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Space Shuttle Discovery Backs Away From ISS
19  December 2006 5:19 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - The space shuttle Discovery is more than 110 feet away and counting from the International Space Station.

The NASA spacecraft spent seven days, 23 hours and 58 minutes docked at the ISS. STS-116 mission commander Mark Polansky is overseeing his shuttle's initial departure from the space station.

Shuttle pilot William Oefelein is expected to take the controls for a partial ISS flyaround once the orbiter reaches a distance of 400 feet.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Discovery Casts Off from ISS
19 December 2006 5:11 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discovery has successfully cast off from the International Space Station (ISS), following eight days of docked operations.

"Houston copies, physical separation,"  Mission Control said.

Undocking occurred at 5:10 p.m. EST (2210 GMT).

The spacecraft is now floating away from its berth at tip of the U.S. Destiny module. Once 400 feet away, shuttle pilot William Oefelein is due to take the helm and guide the spacecraft up and over its recent orbital harbor.

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow briefing live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


 

Discovery Poised to Push Away from ISS
19 December 2006 5:00 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - The spring-loaded docking device designed to gently nudge NASA's Discovery shuttle away from the International Space Station (ISS) is primed and ready for today's undocking activities.

A short time ago, flight controllers here at NASA's Johnson Space Center gave the shuttle's STS-116 crew a go for undocking [video].

The spacecraft remains set to cast off at 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT).

Once 400 feet away, shuttle pilot William Oefelein will begin guiding the orbiter ahead, up and over the ISS in a partial flyaround before departing the orbital laboratory.  

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Set to Cast Off from Space Station
19 December 2006 4:45 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discovery is less than 30 minutes from departing the International Space Station (ISS).

Aboard the ISS, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams reported all is going well. Undocking is set for 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) [video].

"Station is ready for undocking," she told Mission Control.

Meanwhile, two errant bits of equipment -- a lost socket and digital camera -- that were lost during two spacewalks at the ISS have been determined to be well below and ahead to the ISS, presenting no danger to today's undocking of the station's future flight, NASA said.

Aboard Discovery, astronauts are powering up the orbiter's docking mechanism.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


ISS Departure Nears for Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 4:33 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - The clock is ticking down to undocking for NASA's space shuttle Discovery, which sits poised to cast off from the International Space Station (ISS).

Aboard the ISS, the three-person crew - with NASA spaceflyer Sunita Williams taking the place of European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter - is returning to normal operations after eight days of joint operations with Discovery's STS-116 crew.

Undocking efforts are proceeding as planned towards a 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) shuttle departure.

Aboard Discovery, shuttle pilot William Oefelein is preparing to fly the 100-ton orbiter on a quarter-lap around the ISS. After undocking, he will guide the shuttle up, over and away from the orbital laboratory.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Shuttle Discovery Readied for ISS Undocking
19 December 2006 4:09 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are powering up their spacecraft and preparing undocking equipment and cameras as they ready the orbiter to cast off from the International Space Station (ISS).

Undocking activities are proceeding on time for a departure time of 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) today [video].

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Leak Checks Underway Between ISS, Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 3:35 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - As preparations continue for today's shuttle undocking at the International Space Station (ISS), leak checks between the two spacecraft are underway.

NASA's space shuttle Discovery is set to cast off from the ISS at about 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) from its berth at the end of the outpost's Destiny laboratory [video].

The leak checks currently being performed will ensure that the hatches of both Discovery and the ISS are secure before the two undock and head their separate ways.

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Hatches Shut Between ISS, Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 2:50 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - Hatches between NASA's space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station (ISS) are closed for the first time in just under eight days as today's undocking preparations continue [video].

The official time of hatch closure was 2:42 p.m. EST (1942 GMT), which puts the docked time between the two spacecraft at a total of seven days, 19 hours and 48 minutes.

Discovery's STS-116 crew was nine days, 17 hours and 54 minutes into a planned 13-day mission at the time of hatch closure.

Undocking remains set for 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT).

 

Click here for a video preview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click here for SPACE.com's undocking preview story.

You are invited to follow NASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik


Astronauts Make Heartfelt Farewells
19 December 2006 2:25 p.m. EST