Following a successful week of docked operations, the seven astronauts aboard Shuttle Atlantis will depart the International Space Station later this evening, leaving behind the more than three tons (6,600 pounds) of supplies and equipment that was transferred to the orbiting facility.
Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman along with Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov received their wake up call from Mission Control at 6:46 p.m. Central. The wake up song, "YMCA" was played for Scott Altman at the request of his wife.
The seven STS-106 astronauts will shortly begin the final preparations for undocking. Atlantis is scheduled to separate from the station at 10:44 p.m. while the two spacecraft are flying over the northeastern portion of the Ukraine.
The initial separation will be performed by springs in the docking mechanism that will gently push the shuttle away from the station. Both Atlantis and the station's steering jets will be shut off to avoid any inadvertent firings during this initial separation.
Once the docking mechanism's springs have pushed Atlantis away to a distance of about two feet, when the docking devices will be clear of one another, Altman will turn the shuttle's steering jets back on and fire them to begin very slowly moving away from the station. From the aft flight deck, Altman will manually control Atlantis within a tight corridor as he separates from the station, essentially reversing the task performed by Wilcutt when Atlantis docked.
Atlantis will continue away to a distance of about 450 feet, where Altman will begin the close fly-around of the station, first crossing a point directly behind, then directly underneath and then again above the station. Altman will circle the station twice in 90 minutes as the crew records views of the exterior with still photography and video. As Atlantis crosses directly above the station for the second time, Altman will fire Atlantis' jets to perform a final separation.
Early on Monday, all seven astronauts will conduct an in-flight press conference during which they will answer questions from reporters at various NASA centers and the Russian mission control center outside of Moscow. The press conference is scheduled to begin at 2:11 a.m. CDT.
Atlantis' astronauts will get some off duty time just after 3 a.m. Central before they turn in for an eight hour sleep period at 9:46 a.m. When they wake up early Monday evening, the crew will checkout the orbiter systems used for reentry and landing and secure equipment and transfer items in preparation for landing at Kennedy Space Center at 2:56 a.m. Central on Wednesday.
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