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Andy Thomas was the last U.S. Mir astronaut. In his Oral History, he describes leaving the space station.
Thomas relates, "At that point [when the hatch opened] I knew I was going home. . . . We spent time together socializing and saying goodbye and packing up. And after three days, [we] closed the hatch."
He jokes that he, "made sure I was on the shuttle side of it," and then says they "waved goodbye, and slowly pulled away, and . . . did the fly-around, [which was] when I got to look at my home for the last four months."
Thomas says that perhaps one of the most moving moments came as the shuttle was drawing "farther and farther away." According to Thomas, "We went into the night side of the planet, and I could see stars, and the running lights of the station were on.
"You couldn't see the station. All you could see was lights flashing, and they were just going off into the distance -- these flashing points of light fading out slowly. That was . . . an emotional moment, because I knew that would be the last time I would see it--ever. And that's been the case . . ."
Life on Mir
Profile: Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas Oral History (PDF)
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty