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Mon, Nov 05, 2007

Discovery Begins Its Journey Home

Shuttle Due To Land Wednesday

After several minutes of tearful goodbyes, crews onboard the shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station closed the hatches separating the two space vehicles Sunday.

"As my time draws to a close here, I'm filled with a lot of different emotions and I have a lot of blood, sweat and tears that I've left on board the international space station," said departing Expedition 16 crewmember Clayton Anderson, according to Reuters. "It's a very wonderful place."

Discovery undocked from the ISS at 0532 EST as they flew over the South Pacific.

STS-120 Pilot George Zamka backed the orbiter about 400 feet from the station and performed a fly-around to allow crew members to collect video and imagery of the station in its new configuration (shown below). He completed the final separation engine burn at 1915.

The shuttle crew members are using the shuttle robot arm and the 50-foot long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a late inspection of the thermal protection system, according to NASA.

The crew will spend Tuesday preparing for landing. Discovery's first landing opportunity is at 1302 EST Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center, FL.

During its stay at the station, which began October 25, the STS-120 crew continued the on-orbit construction of the station with the installation of the Harmony Node 2 module and the relocation of the P6 truss.

The crew installed Harmony October 26 and did four spacewalks at the station. During the third spacewalk, the crew installed the P6 truss and solar array pair in its permanent location outboard of the port truss.

As ANN reported, the fourth spacewalk was changed during the mission so that the crew could repair a torn solar array on the P6 truss. Following the successful repair work, the crew was able to fully deploy the solar array.

Discovery also delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer Daniel Tani. He replaced Anderson, who arrived at the station in June with STS-117 and spent five months onboard the orbital laboratory.

(Images courtesy of NASA)

FMI: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

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