Having begun its on-orbit assembly, Endeavour's astronauts are now preparing for their departure from the International Space Station this afternoon.
At 2:25 p.m. CST, Pilot Rick Sturckow will undock Endeavour from the station and back the shuttle away to a distance of 450 feet above the station before beginning a nose-forward fly-around just before 2:45 p.m. CST. During Endeavour's one and a half revolutions of the station, the astronauts will conduct a detailed photographic survey of the new outpost. About an hour later, Sturckow will fire Endeavour's jets to separate from the station, leaving it to fly unpiloted for the next five months. The next visit to the station will be by the STS-96 crew in May on an assembly and resupply mission.
Once Endeavour departs the area of the station, the crew will have a few hours of scheduled off-duty time. At about 8:15 p.m. CST, Commander Bob Cabana and Sturckow will fire one of Endeavour's large Orbital Maneuvering System engines for about 10 seconds as part of the SIMPLEX experiment, a Department of Defense study tracking Shuttle engine firings from various radar sites, this one from a site located in Peru. At about 8:30 p.m. CST, the entire crew will gather for interviews by ABC Radio, Associated Press Radio and the Associated Press.
Cabana, Sturckow and Mission Specialist Jerry Ross will deploy the SAC-A satellite from Endeavour's payload bay around 10:30 p.m. CST. SAC-A is a small, self-contained, non-recoverable satellite built by the Argentinean National Commission of Space Activities. The cube-shaped, 590-pound satellite will test and characterize the performance of new equipment and technologies that may be used in future scientific or operational missions. The payload includes a differential global positioning system, a magnetometer, silicon solar cells, a charge-coupled device Earth camera and a whale tracker experiment.
Near the end of the crew's day, Ross, Newman and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev will stow some of the tools used during yesterday's space walk, as Mission Specialist Nancy Currie increases Endeavour's cabin pressure to 14.7 pounds per square inch.
All systems on board Endeavour and the space station remain in excellent shape as they orbit at an altitude of 247 statute miles.