Tonight at around 00:54 GMT, the space shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-130 will depart from the International Space Station and they will drift apart in preparation for Endeavour’s landing, planned for the Kennedy Space Center in a couple of day’s time. The mission timeline can be seen here.
STS-130 began with the final ever night planned launch of a shuttle. Endeavour sailed into the night (after a few failed attempts) taking the Tranquility module with it.
The shuttle then approached the ISS and performed a backflip, allowing the station’s high definition cameras to scan the heat shields for any signs of wear and tear there may have been following launch. The two space platforms then came together and docked.
The mission has seen work to fix Tranquility to Unity and configure the cupola that will give residents of the ISS a new view on the world.
They gave interviews to the media and took phonecalls.
…and now they have said their goodbyes and will prepare for the journey home:
That journey will be broadcast on NASA TV and if you visit Heavens Above and check when the ISS is supposed to be visible above your location, the first fly overs after separation will show two travelling stars – the shuttle and the space station still close together in the sky.
The media here have been closely following the mission. A British born astronaut, Dr Nicholas Patrick, was launched with Endeavour and participated in space walks. The cupola and its view on the world held the attention for a while and then it was revealed Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi (who tweets here) has been tweeting pictures from space, making use of the new data connection that has for the first time allowed direct broadband internet access from space. Previously, they were on the equivalent of a dial-up connection as there wasn’t a deal to provide coverage to something flying over all parts of the Earth. As there are official things to upload and download from the ISS, this restricted what else could be done with the data channel. Even tweets had to be emailed down and then uploaded to an account by a technician on the ground. Now it can all be done directly.
In space, they can now hear you tweet.