Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the ISS on Wednesday, providing the dramatic first views of the space station with its full company of solar arrays unfurled. “Discovery, Alpha, Godspeed,” ISS commander Mike Fincke radioed after the shuttle departed. “Thanks for making us symmetrical, giving us full power, and all the other wonderful things you did for us. You did great work. Come again.”
“Thanks for the great work as well,” shuttle commander Lee Archambault replied. “Have a good one, we’ll see you on the ground in about a month.”
The fly-around was timed to begin at orbital sunrise, to allow for good lighting for the much anticipated pictures. But everyone had to wait until later for a high-definition video replay on NASA TV. The shuttle’s KU-band television antenna didn’t have a good link with NASA’s relay satellites until after the fly-around was complete. The image above has been updated to show an official NASA image taken by the Discovery astronauts during the flyaround, and below are a few screenshots from the high-def replay, showing different views of the ISS, post undocking.
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UPDATE: Video of the flyaround is now available, and can be seen below:
At a mission briefing after the undocking, mission managers expressed their excitement at seeing the images of the space station at full length, saying they felt an extreme amount of pride and joy for everyone involved with the ISS project.
“We’re getting ready to turn the station over to the research community,” said Dan Hartman, chairman of the space station mission management team, “and they will be challenged to keep the crew busy — and that’s a good thing. By the end of May (when the ISS crew size will increase to six), we’ll be ready to go.”
The Discovery crew took Sandy Magnus along with them, bringing her her home after her long-duration stay on the ISS, and left behind Koichi Wakata, Japan’s first long-duration astronaut.
The shuttle is scheduled to land on Saturday, March 28 with the first landing opportunity at 1:43 pm EDT.