"We laid out the red carpet for the first crew to come aboard," said Bob Cabana, manager of international operations for the International Space Station Program.
Undocking occurred at 10:46 p.m. CDT Sunday over Russia near the northeastern portion of the Ukraine. When Atlantis was at a safe distance from the station, about 450 feet, Pilot Scott Altman performed a 90-minute, double-loop fly around to enable the crew to document the station's exterior. He fired Atlantis' jets one final time to separate from the station at 12:35 a.m.
"It glistened out there in the different sunlight, watching the sunrise and sunset. The way it illuminated the solar arrays on the service module was just phenomenal," Altman said, when asked about the fly around during a crew news conference early Monday. "It sparkled like a jewel against the blue background of the oceans."
Commander Terry Wilcutt, Altman and Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov all answered questions posed by reporters at NASA centers and the Russian mission control center outside of Moscow.
Wilcutt said he had no advice for the first station residents - Bill Shepherd, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko -- other than to "enjoy it like a new home." When asked about living conditions aboard the station, in particular noise levels inside the Zvezda service module, he said "We all think it's just fine. No louder than the shuttle. It's just fine the way it is."
Following the in-flight press conference, Malenchenko and Morukov remained in Atlantis' middeck to field questions from Russian reporters in Moscow before enjoying six hours of off-duty time and an eight-hour sleep period.
When the astronauts are awakened at 5:46 p.m. CDT this afternoon, they will check out the shuttle systems used for reentry and landing and secure equipment and transfer items in preparation for their homecoming. Landing is scheduled for 2:56 a.m. CDT Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center.