NASA Endeavour set to undock, next stop Earth

In just a few hours NASA space shuttle Endeavour will undock from the International Space Station after nine days heavy lifting and key utility installation work.

Specifically Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the station at 6:54 p.m. today and land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 9:16 p.m. Sunday.

During Endeavour's visit, astronauts completed three spacewalks, largely focused on installing the new Tranquility life module and attaching and unwrapping its seven-windowed cupola. The entire crew pitched in to outfit the new module with exercise and regenerative life support systems, NASA said.

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NASA said Endeavour Commander George Zamka lead a cupola ribbon-cutting ceremony, dedicating it to Astronaut Charles Lacy Veach, who was instrumental in early development of the module. He flew on two shuttle flights, STS-39 in 1991 and STS-52 in 1992, and died of cancer in 1995.

They also placed in the cupola a moon rock returned by Apollo 11 and later carried to the summit of Mount Everest by Astronaut Scott Parazynski, along with chips from Everest. Zamka said that in continuing their journey for additional millions of miles, they will serve "as a reminder of man's reach and man's grit."

On the last day, other equipment and supplies were moved, resulting in a net transfer to the station of 1,313 pounds, NASA noted.

Key activities from the Endeavour mission included:

• Tranquility was integrated with the ISS. The module adds room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems including include air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling.

• The cupola observatory module was attached to an Earth-facing side of the ISS. At just under ten feet in diameter, the Cupola will accommodate two crew members and portable workstations that can control station and robotic activities. The view will let the ISS crew monitor spacewalks and docking operations, as well as provide a spectacular view of Earth and other celestial objects, NASA stated.

• Astronauts installed the Water Recovery System’s refurbished Distillation Assembly and replacement of the system’s Fluids Control Pump Assembly. According to NASA’s Web site, the system can recycle about 93% of the water it receives. 

• The11 astronauts and cosmonauts on the docked vehicles received a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama, who was accompanied at the White House by a dozen middle school students from across the country who are in Washington, D.C. for a national engineering competition.

Once Endeavor lands, attention will be moved to the space shuttle Discovery currently scheduled to launch on April 5. According to NASA Discovery will deliver a multi-purpose logistics module filled with science racks to be transferred to laboratories on the ISS. The mission will feature three spacewalks to replace an ammonia tank assembly, retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station’s exterior and switch out a rate gyro assembly, NASA said.

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This story, "NASA Endeavour set to undock, next stop Earth" was originally published by Network World.

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