The seven STS-106 astronauts and cosmonauts turned out the lights and closed the doors on a new home in space today after spending a week working as movers, cleaners, plumbers, electricians and cable installers. In all, more than 6,600 pounds of supplies were left behind for use by Expedition crews that will live aboard the International Space Station.
The last hatch to the station was closed at 7 this morning, ending 5 days, 9 hours, 21 minutes inside the station for Atlantisí crew. Undocking is scheduled for 10:44 tonight.
The exit from the station began late last night when the hatch leading to the Russian Progress supply ship was closed. The Progress has been filled with trash and packing materials and eventually will be remotely commanded to undock and burn up harmlessly in Earthís atmosphere.
Before closing off the shuttle from the station, a fourth altitude boost was given to the orbiting complex. The final series of shuttle thruster firings raised the stationís orbit another 3½ statute miles (5.6 km) to 241 by 233 miles (388 x 375 km). In all, the four maneuvers raised the average altitude of the ISS by 14 miles (22.5 km).
Before going to bed in a few hours, the crew will prepare rendezvous tools to be used during the undocking from the station. Also, the centerline camera will be placed in the orbiter docking system window.
After wake up at 6:46 p.m. today, the crew will move into preparations for undocking. Wilcutt and Altman will guide Atlantis through a double-loop fly around of the station to fully document its current configuration.
Atlantis leaves the station in excellent shape to await its next visitors, who will board Discovery in early October on the STS-92 mission to deliver another tunnel adapter and a small truss support for the stationís propellant-saving gyroscopes. The Z1 truss element also will provide support for the large communications antenna and first set of U.S. solar arrays.
Shuttle Program managers met earlier this morning and elected to leave Discovery on the launch pad based on the expected path of Hurricane Gordon, forecast to make landfall along the upper west coast of the Florida peninsula.
The next STS-106 status report will be issued about 7 p.m. today, or sooner if events warrant.
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