Friday, February 19, 2010

Endeavour foliage space station

The crews of the linked space shuttle and space station embraced and said farewell Friday as they equipped for Endeavour to begin its two-day trip home after a mission of Olympic proportions.

There were hugs and handshakes all roughly as the six Endeavour astronauts floated one by one out of the International Space Station, where they installed a stunning seven-window observation deck that gives astronauts supreme views of Earth. The hatches between the craft were then conserved in preparation for Friday night's undocking.

We are actually going to enjoy the view. I wish you guys could stay a little longer to participate in that view, the space station's skipper, Jeffrey Williams, told his shuttle friends. Yeah, it's hard to turn away from that window, shuttle commander George Zamka said of the atrium's domed centrepiece, the largest window ever launched into space.

Each of the astronauts spent a few moments alone in the dome late Thursday, taking in what they described as remarkable and stunning views of Earth. Arguably, mankind has been after this view for centuries, this viewpoint, this view of the world, and we finally have it, Zamka said. It culminates just about the meeting complete of the space station, Williams added.

The 11 space flyers teamed up over the past week to fit the dome and a new room, called Tranquility, marking the last of the major space station building blocks. They finished some last-minute packing, and then gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the eve of Endeavour's undocking.

Zamka offered a plaque to hang in the dome that contained four chips of moon rock and a stone retrieved from the top of Mt. Everest. A former astronaut agreed the moon fragments to the top of Everest last spring.

The lunar chips were composed from the Sea of Tranquility during man's first moon landing in 1969. The chamber was named after that important achievement. Zamka said the rocks will serve as a reminder of man's reach and man's grit as they go out and discover.

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