Shuttle Discovery Undocks From Space Station

HOUSTON- Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station (ISS)Saturday morning, 10 days after arriving to deliver more than seven tons ofsupplies and equipment to the orbiting laboratory.

?Wehope we didn't tear up your house too much,? Discoverycommander Alan Poindexter told his station counterpart, Russian cosmonautOleg Kotov, during a farewell ceremony.? ?We tried to a good job of cleaningwhen we left [but] if we leave anything behind, you can bring it with youhome.?

?Thankyou very much,? said Kotov. ?We're really grateful for your help and your jobyou did for us.?

Shuttlepilot Jim Dutton backed the orbiter away at 8:52 a.m. EDT (1252 GMT), beforebeginning a 360-degree fly-around of the station allowing his six crewmates totake photos and video of the outpost?s exterior condition.

"Dex, you and your crew were excellent guests, we loved having youhere," station flight engineer Timothy "T.J." Creamer toldPoindexter. "You helped us leave the station in a better place then whenyou got here. Come back soon."

Poindextersaid his crew loved every minute of it.

"Safelanding," Creamer replied. Discoveryis due to land Monday morning in Florida.

Finalseparation for the two spacecraft was expected at 10:35 a.m. EDT (1452).

Afailed antenna system aboard Discovery, which is usually relied upon to provideradar data during docking and undocking did not affect the shuttle?s departure.

?Forthe most part, it's ops nominal,? said lead shuttle flight director RichardJones on Friday. ?It was a pretty ops nominal day for docking. We're going tomake it look pretty much the same for undocking as well.?

TheKu-Band antenna, which the astronauts discovered was not working soon afterreaching orbit 12 days ago, is also used to transmit live video to MissionControl. Without it, those watching from the ground will need to wait untilDiscovery lands to see all but still shots of what the crew saw duringundocking.

?We'regoing to be absent the ability to see onboard video because of the [failed] Kusystem,? explained Jones. ?We're going to have what we call SSV or sequentialstill video, where we're going to have intermittent still shots of whateverview the crew is downlinking to us.?

Discoverylaunched on April 5 on what is now a 14-day mission to deliver supplies andequipment to the International Space Station.

Duringtheir time docked at the space station, the STS-131 astronauts transferred 7.6tons of experiments and supplies to the station, most of which was carried toorbit inside the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM). Thecargo module, now back inside Discovery?s payload bay, is returning 2.5tons of science results and trash to Earth.

Thiswill be the last round-trip for Leonardo to and from orbit. On its flight, themodule will be left at the station to serve as a closet and storage space forthe crew.

Inaddition to breaking up the record-tying 13-member joint crew, Discovery?sseven astronauts? departure also marked the division of the largestgroup of women and largest group of Japanese astronauts aboard onespacecraft, at four and two respectively.

StephanieWilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki are returning to Earth on the shuttle, leavingTracy Caldwell and Soichi Noguchi among the crew still on the station.

Alsoonboard Discovery are spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson, aswell as Poindexter and Dutton.

Thismission is Discovery's second-to-last spaceflight and one of NASA's final fewshuttle flights before the spaceplane fleet is retired later this year. NASA plans to launch only threemore missions after this one. The final flight, set for September, will also beon Discovery and include the Leonardo cargo pod, though the module will bepermanently left at the space station as a storage room.

Duringtheir final scheduled full day in space, Discovery?s crew will test the flightcontrol systems that will allow them to convert the orbiter from a spacecraftto a glider for the journey back to Earth.

Discovery?sfirst landing opportunity at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is at 8:48a.m. (1248 GMT) on Monday.

SPACE.comis providing complete coverage of Discovery's STS-131 mission to theInternational Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malikand Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz based in New York. Click here for shuttlemission updates and a link to NASA TV

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.