KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station for the 12th and final time late Sunday, backing away for a fly-around photo survey before moving back to within 1,000 feet or so to test navigation sensors and software intended for use in NASA's next generation manned spacecraft.
Sailing 220 miles above Bolivia, the shuttle's docking system disengaged its counterpart on the space station's forward port at 11:55 p.m. EDT and the orbiter pulled away directly in front of the lab complex.
"Houston and station, we have physical separation," an astronaut radioed as the two spacecraft separated.
A few moments later, space station flight engineer Ronald Garan rang the ship's bell in the forward Harmony module and, following naval tradition, announced "Endeavour, departing. Fair winds and following seas, guys."
"Thanks, Ron. We appreciate all the help," shuttle commander Mark Kelly replied.
"It was a pleasure serving with you boys," Garan said.
Following standard practice, Endeavour pilot Gregory Johnson was at the controls for undocking, guiding the shuttle to a point about 400 feet directly in front of the outpost before kicking off a slow 360-degree photo-survey fly around, looping up above, behind, below and back out in front of the laboratory at a distance of about 600 feet. A small rocket firing was planned to put Endeavour on a trajectory carrying it back above and behind the station.… Read more