After more than seven days working together, including the performance of three spacewalks and the installation of a new module, space shuttle Atlantis' crew and their International Space Station (ISS) counterparts will part ways today.
The STS-132 crew woke at 11:50 p.m. CDT Saturday to the song "These Are Days" performed by 10,000 Maniacs for pilot Tony Antonelli, who will be Atlantis' controls when it separates from the station.
"It's a great morning up here," radioed Antonelli.
Before they part, the combined crews will join together one last time at 5:25 a.m. in the station for a news conference, answering questions from reporters in the United States and in Tokyo, Japan.
They will then gather their last items for transfer to the shuttle, bid their farewells, and close the hatches between the two spacecraft. Undocking is planned for 10:22 a.m. CDT.
Credit: NASA TV
Once backed away from the complex, Antonelli will perform a 360-degree flyaround of the station. Atlantis' crew will capture views of the station, including the Russian Mini-Research Module Rassvet that they installed, before slowly increasing their distance but staying within range of the ISS such that they would be able to redock to the orbiting lab if needed.
Space shuttle Atlantis' six astronauts bid farewell to their six International Space Station counterparts during a ceremony held in the Harmony node. ISS Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov and STS-132 commander Ken Ham exchanged goodbyes at 7:10 a.m. CDT prior to dividing their crews and closing the three hatches between their two spacecraft.
Credit: NASA TV
"This is time when we have to say goodbye to our friends," began Kotov, "the excellent crew for space shuttle Atlantis that did an excellent job performing three EVAs, installing the new Russian module, and having the fun and enjoying the living on station and working in space. They sure [are] a good example of friendship, professionalism, and classic attitudes in their behavior."
"Again thank you, thank you Ken, thank to the whole crew for an excellent job, for your patience, for your work, for everything. We enjoyed working with you," he said and then shook hands with Ham.
"We are one happy shuttle," replied Ham. "We are happy because of all of your efforts, too. I think through our entire docked timeframe here we were a twelve person crew who operated together and that was the only way that we got everything done and got MRM installed and got the EVAs done."
So we are happy, but this one is to friends we are going to leave behind and new friends that we have made, close friends, my friend. We've had a great time together and TJ [Creamer] will be home soon, Soichi [Noguchi] will be home soon, so good."
"We're going to close the hatch shortly and we're going to depart," said Ham. "Of course, as always, it will be a little bit sad. But we'll see you all on the surface of planet Earth soon."
Credit: NASA TV
Atlantis' hatch was closed at 7:43 a.m. CDT, bringing to an end six days, 20 hours, and 25 minutes of joint crew operations. Undocking is planned for 10:22 a.m. CDT.
STS-132 pilot Tony Antonelli took control of Atlantis as it separated from the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 (PMA-2) located on the forward port of the station's Harmony node. The spacecraft undocked at 10:22 a.m. CDT Sunday, after seven days and 54 minutes being connected.
Atlantis and the station were flying 222 miles over the Indian Ocean, just to the south-west of Australia, at the time the orbiter unberthed.
"Hock, I got to tell you," radioed flight engineer TJ Creamer from onboard the station after undocking, "you guys were consummate professionals with a great sense of humor. We were so glad to see you, loved working with you. See you soon brother. Stay safe."
"Copy all, TJ. Same comments right back at you brother," replied Atlantis' commander Ken "Hock" Ham.
Anontelli will fire Atlantis' jets to separate the shuttle from the station to a distance of about 400 feet where he will begin a 360-degree flyaround of the orbiting laboratory.
Credit: NASA TV
Atlantis has served an important role in the assembly of the International Space Station, delivering the U.S. Destiny module and the Quest airlock in 2001, several of the "backbone" truss segments, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Columbus laboratory, and now on its final planned flight, the Russian Mini-Research Module Rassvet.
STS-132 pilot Tony Antonelli began flying Atlantis on an orbit around the International Space Station at 10:46 a.m. CDT, giving his crewmates the opportunity to visually survey the station and the Rassvet Mini-Research Module they delivered and installed.
The flyaround also provided the last views of Atlantis flying in space (if, as planned, STS-132 is this orbiter's last flight), as captured by cameras on the station.
At 12:05 p.m. CDT, Atlantis fired its thrusters to complete its second of two engine burns, separating it from the International Space Station (ISS) and setting it on its course for a return to Earth on Wednesday.
With the distance growing between the two spacecraft, lead station flight director Emily Nelson called up from Mission Control to both crews.
"Hey guys, I just wanted to pass along our thanks from the ISS control teams in particular for the entire twelve person crew and all of your hard work to improve ISS," commented Nelson. "We have enjoyed working with you guys in all of your great successes, not the least because of the way you include us in the fun of your mission."
"Atlantis, enjoy the rest of your trip," she radioed. "We look forward to seeing you back here in a few days. And ISS, I know we have got some work to do today, but we looking forward to giving you a couple of days off."
"We couldn't have done it without you sister," replied Ken Ham, Atlantis' commander.
"Thank you maam," added ISS flight engineer TJ Creamer. "We had a great time with our brothers on the shuttle and Oleg would like to say a couple of words."
"Have a safe trip back and godspeed to you," radioed Oleg Kotov, Expedition 23 commander. "And thank you again for all your job you did."
"Back at you Oleg, for you and your crew," answered Ham.