Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson wished his former crewmates Godspeed, as they left him behind on the station. Mission Specialist Suni Williams replaced Anderson aboard the shuttle for the return trip home after six months in space, setting a new record for time spent in space by a female.
They haven’t gone far yet, however. Pilot Lee Archambault took control of Atlantis shortly after undocking and lapped the station at a distance of 600 feet as crewmembers documented the larger, more capable station and their handiwork with video and photos.
During the eight days, 19 hours and six minutes docked to the station, the combined shuttle and station crews helped build the station into a near-symmetrical configuration, adding a new starboard truss segment and solar array pair, while folding another array in preparation for its relocation later this year.
Atlantis’ trip to the station brings the cumulative time spent by all space shuttles at the station to 151 days, four hours and 52 minutes.
After the fly-around, Archambault fired thrusters to separate Atlantis to a safe distance for the night while fellow crewmembers performed additional scans of the wing leading edges and nose cap. The imagery will be evaluated overnight by ground engineers in Houston to ensure Atlantis incurred no micrometeoroid debris damage during its time in space.
The crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 9:08 p.m., and wake up at 5:08 a.m. Wednesday to check out entry systems and pack up equipment ahead of Thursday’s planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center.