Discovery undocks from ISS for long trip home

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Space shuttle Discovery has successfully undocked from the International Space Station, after a morale-boosting message from Captain Kirk.

At 7 am EST, space shuttle Discovery separated from the ISS, some 220 miles above the western Pacific, northeast of New Guinea. It had spent eight days, 16 hours, and 46 minutes attached to the orbiting laboratory.

Half an hour later, pilot Eric Boe began flying the shuttle one lap around the station. The aim is to take some snaps of the station's new to document its new configuration, which now includes the Permanent Multipurpose Module and External Logistics Carrier-4 that Discovery delivered.

A few hours earlier, William Shatner sent a special message to the crew during their 3:23am EST wakeup call. With Alexander Courage’s familiar theme song played underneath, Shatner personalized the original television introduction.

"Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery," he said. "Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."

Before the hatch closed, station commander Scott Kelly told Discovery commander Steve Lindsey that it had been a very successful time onboard.

"We enjoyed having you as guests, we’re going to miss you, and we’re going to miss space shuttle Discovery," he said. "Discovery has been a great ship and has really supported ISS more than any other shuttle and we wish her fair winds and following seas. Thank you."

The mission, Discovery's last, was its 13th trip to the ISS, and its 39th mission in space. The final flights of Discovery's sister ships, Endeavour and Atlantis, are scheduled for April and June.