March 24, 2008

Shuttle Crew to Undock from Space Station Tonight

The seven astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Endeavour will cast off from the
International Space Station (ISS) late Monday after a record-long stay at the
orbiting laboratory.

commander Dominic Gorie and his crew will undock from the station at 7:56 p.m.
EDT (2356 GMT) tonight, wrapping up a packed 12 days of construction to deliver
a Canadian-built robot and the first module of Japan's massive
Kibo laboratory

"I sort of
looked at this flight sort of like a college team looking at March
Madness...every spacewalk was a win, every robotics [operation] was a win," Gorie
told reporters on Earth during a Sunday crew conference. "We've got a great
winning team."

Gorie and
his crew launched toward the station on March 11. They are set to land
Wednesday evening at 7:04 p.m. EDT (2304 GMT) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in
Cape Canaveral, Fla., to complete a record-setting 16-day mission to the ISS.

Station and
shuttle astronauts will shut the hatches between their two spacecraft at about
5:13 p.m. EDT (2113 GMT) today after a brief farewell ceremony.

"We've seen
some incredible changes on the station and it's been a real privilege to be
here and see all that," said the station's Expedition
16 commander Peggy Whitson
, adding that she and crewmate Yuri Malenchenko
have welcomed the addition of three new modules in the last five months.

construction marathon

astronauts performed five spacewalks at the ISS, a new record for a single shuttle
visit, to build the Canadian Space Agency's $209-million Dextre maintenance
and install the attic-like Japanese Logistics Pressurized Module that
will provide storage room for Japan's main Kibo lab.

"It's a
great moment, and it's going to open up a new era for Japan and its space program,"
said Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, who installed the Kibo module using
Endeavour's robotic arm.

The shuttle
also ferried first-time spaceflyer NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman to the ISS to
join the station's Expedition 16 crew.

"I guess my
only regret is that I've gotten kind of used to hanging out with these guys
here in the blue shirts," said Reisman, referring to his former shuttle
crewmates. "I'm going to miss them."

will serve as a station flight engineer until early June and is replacing
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut
Leopold Eyharts
, of France. Eyharts arrived at the ISS in early February
during an earlier shuttle flight and helped deliver, and later commission, the
station's European-built Columbus laboratory.

"Of course,
I would love to stay longer up here on the station, but I think it's time for
me to go back," Eyharts said Sunday.

Endeavour pulls away from the space station, pilot Gregory H. Johnson will fly
the shuttle around the ISS on a victory lap of sorts while his crewmates
photograph it from afar.

"I'm just
looking forward to getting to do some hand-flying on the vehicle," Johnson
said, adding that Gorie gave him a few pointers earlier on Sunday. "Dom is the
best coach I could hope for and I can't wait to do it in real life."

broadcasting Endeavour's STS-123 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for's
shuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed.