Space Shuttle Endeavour on the Way Home, For the Last Time
The Space Shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six has undocked from the International Space Station and is coming home, to close out NASA’s next-to-last shuttle flight. They paused just long enough to do a victory lap and test equipment for a future interplanetary ship.
Endeavour undocked close to midnight Sunday, ending 11 and a half days of joint flight. It’s heading for a landing in Florida just after 1:30 AM CDT Wednesday morning.
Endeavour left behind a space station that is now 100 percent complete, at least as far as NASA’s share of the 12-year project. The Russian Space Agency plans to add another compartment or two, but the other partners have everything they need already up there for the decade ahead.
The Shuttle Atlantis will make one last supply run to the space station this summer to close out the 30-year shuttle program.
Built to replace the lost shuttle Challenger, Endeavour was launched the first time in 1992. Since then, on subsequent voyages, it’s racked up more than 123 million miles and has circled the Earth more than 4,600 times. After it retires this summer, it will be donated to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Barring the unexpected, this voyage will be the last trip into space for astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will watch the re-entry and landing on TV at the Memorial-Hermann Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston.