Staying behind on the newly rewired space station were Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, and departing with Discovery’s crew was Thomas Reiter, a European Space Agency astronaut on his way home after a six-month space voyage.
Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin rang the ship’s bell in Navy fashion and saluted the shuttle and crew as they departed. "From the crew of Discovery – we wish you smooth sailing – thank you for the hard work, and we hope you enjoy the new electrical system on the station," STS-116 Commander Mark Polansky radioed back from a distance of 650 feet during a half-lap fly-around.
Pilot Bill Oefelein was at the controls for the fly-around, which gave Discovery’s crew a look at its handiwork, a new P5 spacer truss segment and a fully retracted P6 solar array wing. During 7 days, 23 hours and 58 minutes of docked operations, the combined crew installed the newest piece of the station’s backbone and completely rewired the station’s power grid over the course of four spacewalks.
Before the hatches closed at 1:42 p.m., Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham and her cargo team had transferred more than two tons of food, water and equipment for use by the Expedition 14 crew and its newest member. They also filled Discovery’s pressurized cargo carrier with equipment and experiment samples returning to Earth.
Discovery fired its orbital maneuvering system engines to finish separation from the station at 6:12 p.m., bound for a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:56 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.
On Wednesday, Polansky, Oefelein and Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick will use the shuttle’s robotic arm and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System to inspect Discovery’s heat shield for damage from orbiting debris or micrometeoroids. Spacewalkers Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang will work with Higginbotham and Reiter to stow equipment and supplies used during the mission in preparation for landing.