NASA to Begin Trip Home
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. - Space shuttle Endeavour departed the International Space Station late Sunday, clearing the way for a final cargo run to the outpost before NASA retires its three-ship fleet.
As the spacecraft sailed 215 miles above Bolivia, pilot Greg Johnson gently pulsed Endeavour’s steering jets at 11:55 p.m. to back away from the docking port that has anchored the shuttle since its arrival on May 18.
Endeavour delivered the station’s premier science experiment—the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector — and a pallet of spare parts intended to tide over the orbital outpost after the shuttle program ends.
Before leaving the station’s orbit, the shuttle crew planned to test a new automated rendezvous system being developed for NASA’s next spaceship, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, intended to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars. One final shuttle mission is planned before the United States ends the 30-year-old shuttle program.