Shuttle astronauts bid space station crew farewell
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 17, 2008
The Atlantis astronauts gathered for a final time aboard the international space station today, bidding the lab crew farewell in a tearful ceremony that marked the end of a complex assembly mission. After one last round of hugs and handshakes, the shuttle crew floated back into Atlantis and hatches were sealed at 1:03 p.m. to set the stage for undocking early Monday.
The brief farewell was particularly poignant for Dan Tani, returning to Earth after an extended four-month stay in space. Originally scheduled to return in December, Tani's stay aloft was extended two months after Atlantis was grounded in December with fuel sensor problems. Along with missing the holidays with his family, Tani was in orbit when his 90-year-old mother was killed in a Dec. 19 car wreck.
"Dan has done a phenomenal job over the last several months," said station commander Peggy Whitson. "He was here a few months more than he had originally planned on, but he's really made up for it and done an incredible job while he was here."
Tani took a moment to describe his impressions of the space station, saying "today I feel very optimistic about our space program and our society because I'm here, I've spent time with a man from France, from Italy and from Germany and from Russia. Nations that have not always been friendly are now cooperating and we're doing great things."
"That was the first thing I was thinking about today," he said. "The other thing I was thinking about today was women, and it's been a very big topic on this flight because when I flew up there were two women commanders and for whatever reason, that was huge news. The unspoken news there was they were both fantastically great commanders and it was a privilege to fly with both of them.
"The other thing I was thinking about today was my mother... my inspiration," Tani said, choking back tears. "And of course, my job is easy compared to my wife's. Jane's the love of my life and she had the hard work while I was having fun. So I can't wait to get back to her and my two little girls.
"If we were in Russia, this would be the third toast - the toast for the women in our lives. I've enjoyed all my time here and I can't wait to get back with all my pictures and videos. So thank you so much for all your help on the ground and really, we couldn't have done it without you. We're doing magnificent things up here and it's not us, of course, we're just the tip. It's the solid foundation everybody on the ground provides for us and makes us look good. Thank you very much."
Tani was replaced aboard the space station by European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who plans to remain aboard the outpost until late March activating and carrying out experiments in Europe's new Columbus research module.
Taking the microphone from Tani, Eyharts said "Dan is a great guy, I've been very impressed by the experience he acquired here in the space station. It was really a pleasure and an honor to receive the handover from him and I hope that in a few weeks, I will be able to do one hundredth of what he is able to do today."
Said Atlantis commander Steve Frick: "For the shuttle crew of Atlantis, STS-122, it was our privilege to bring Leo up to his new home. ... And it's very much our privilege to take Dan home after such a long stay up here and so much hard work. We're looking forward to a very short rest of the flight and a successful landing at the Kennedy Space Center (Wednesday).
"It's been an amazing experience for us," Frick said. "We were very privileged to bring up the European Columbus laboratory module and we're incredibly excited to see it with the lights on and ready for action. So Peggy, thanks very much for being our host. We raced as hard as we could trying to keep up with you and now we need to go take a rest!"
"All right, guys, it's been great having you here," Whitson replied. The two crews then separated and hatches betwen Atlantis and the station were closed.
The shuttle astronauts are scheduled to go to bed at 4:45 p.m. Wakeup is scheduled for 12:45 a.m. Monday. For readers interested in looking ahead, here is the latest undocking timeline (in EST and mission elapsed time):
EST........DD...HH...MM...EVENT 02/18/08 03:13 AM...10...12...28...Sunrise 03:38 AM...10...12...53...Station in undocking attitude 03:43 AM...10...12...58...Noon 03:54 AM...10...13...09...ISS KU antenna parked 04:14 AM...10...13...29...Sunset 04:15 AM...10...13...30...Russian solar arrays feathered 04:20 AM...10...13...35...U.S. solar arrays feathered 04:27 AM...10...13...42...UNDOCKING 04:29 AM...10...13...44...ISS holds attitude 04:32 AM...10...13...47...Range: 50 feet 04:34 AM...10...13...49...Range 75 feet 04:39 AM...10...13...54...Russian arrays resume sun track 04:44 AM...10...13...59...Sunrise 04:56 AM...10...14...11...Range: 400 feet; start fly around 05:06 AM...10...14...21...Range: 600 feet 05:08 AM...10...14...23...Shuttle directly above ISS 05:15 AM...10...14...30...Noon 05:19 AM...10...14...34...Shuttle directly behind ISS 05:31 AM...10...14...46...Shuttle directly below ISS 05:42 AM...10...14...57...Shuttle direcly in front of ISS 05:42 AM...10...14...57...Separation burn No. 1 05:45 AM...10...15...00...Sunset 06:10 AM...10...15...25...Separation burn No. 2 06:15 AM...10...15...30...Sunrise
"I love living here on the station, it's comfortable, it's fun, it's exciting, the view, of course," Tani told reporters Saturday. "So it's going to be tough leaving here, but obviously, I want to get back to see my family.
"I look forward to some odd things," he added. "I look forward to putting food on a plate and eating several things at once, which you can't do up here. I'm looking forward to spitting my toothpaste out in a sink rather than swallowing it. And of course, the most (significant) thing I'm looking forward to is seeing my (two) girls and my wife."