Russian "taxi" crew Commander Victor Afanasyev, Flight Engineer Konstantin Kozeev and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Claudie Haignere undocked the Soyuz TM-32 craft from the Pirs Docking Compartment at 7:39 p.m. CST (1:39 GMT on Oct. 31) as the Soyuz and the ISS sailed 240 statute miles over Eastern Asia near the Russian-Chinese border. The Soyuz TM-32 craft arrived at the ISS on April 30 and was nearing the end of its operational lifetime. A fresh Soyuz is flown to the Station every six months to provide Station residents an assured ride home in the event of an emergency.
The successful undocking came ten days after the "taxi" crew was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the new Soyuz TM-33 craft, which will remain at the ISS until next spring.
The older Soyuz was scheduled to fire its braking rockets in a deorbit maneuver just after 10 p.m. CST (4:00 GMT on Oct. 31) to enable the "taxi" trio to reenter Earth's atmosphere. Landing was scheduled at 10:58 p.m. CST (4:58 GMT, 9:58 a.m. Kazakhstan time Oct. 31) on the Kazakh steppes.
In the ISS, Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin monitored the undocking and began to turn their attention to the final weeks of their four-month mission aboard the complex. They are scheduled to return to Earth in December after being replaced by a Russian commander and two American astronauts.
After saying their final farewells to one another, the two crews closed hatches between the Zvezda Service Module and the Pirs, to which the older Soyuz was docked. The undocking occurred after commands were sent to drive open hooks and latches that held the older Soyuz firmly to the new Pirs docking port. Afanasyev backed the Soyuz away from the ISS to a safe distance for the deorbit burn of the capsule's rockets.
With systems operating normally, the station is orbiting at an average altitude of 247 statute miles (395 km).
Now on their own once again, the Expedition Three crewmembers will continue their scientific investigations this coming week.