Russian "taxi crew" Commander Sergei Zalyotin, European Space Agency Flight Engineer Frank DeWinne from Belgium and Russian Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov undocked the Soyuz TM-34 capsule from the Zarya Control Module's nadir docking port at 2:44 p.m. Central time (2044 GMT) and backed away from the ISS to a safe distance through a series of thruster firings. The Soyuz TM-34 vehicle arrived at the ISS in April. Left behind docked to the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment of the ISS is the new Soyuz TMA-1 return craft which carried Zalyotin, DeWinne and Lonchakov from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan during their launch on Oct. 30. They arrived at the ISS on Nov. 1.
A fresh Soyuz is delivered to the ISS every six months to provide an assured return capability for station residents in the unlikely event a problem would force them to come home prematurely. The new Soyuz is designed to accommodate larger or smaller crewmembers, and is equipped with upgraded computers, a new cockpit control panel and improved avionics.
The Expedition 5 crewmembers - Commander Valery Korzun, NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Sergei Treschev - bid the "taxi" crew farewell earlier today before closing hatches between the station and the Soyuz return vehicle.
Later today, Zalyotin will perform a deorbit maneuver using the Soyuz thrusters to begin the descent back home for a landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 6:04 p.m. Central time (0004 GMT Nov. 10, 5:04 a.m. Kazakhstan time Nov. 10).
The departure of the "taxi" crew sets the stage for the launch of the shuttle Endeavour on the STS-113 mission early Monday to bring a new crew of residents to the ISS to replace Korzun, Whitson and Treschev, who have been in space since June. Endeavour's crew, led by Commander Jim Wetherbee, will also deliver the Port One (P1) truss segment to the ISS, the fourth of 11 such trusses that will form the backbone for the ISS for the addition of new modules and power-producing solar arrays.