Spaceflight Now: Space Station/STS-98

A final visit before undocking and the journey home

Posted: February 4, 2001

Illustration of the station at the completion of Atlantis' visit. Photo: NASA

While installation of the Destiny module is the primary goal of Atlantis' mission, the shuttle crew also will deliver critical supplies, fresh water and spare parts for the Zvezda module's temperamental Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system and air conditioner.

During their final full day together, the two crews will complete the equipment transfers and wrap up work to move trash and discarded equipment from the station for return to Earth.

A final altitude reboost session is planned, more IMAX footage will be shot and the crews will hold a joint news conference before enjoying a final dinner together. Hatches between the shuttle and station will remain open overnight while the crews sleep. They will be closed for good early the next morning about two hours before undocking.

Polansky, making his first flight, will fly Atlantis from its aft flight deck as the shuttle drops away from the station.

Animation shows Atlantis undocking from the space station. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
"When we finally disconnect from the station, I'll fire the jets a few times to establish an opening rate," he said in a NASA interview. "We will slowly back away and get ourselves to about 400 to 500 feet away from the station.

"And then we'll go ahead and start to do a 360-degree orbit around the space station," he said. "Hopefully, we will be in a position to take a lot of great shots. ... We'd like to get as much photo documentation as we can to bring back for the next crew members who are going to go visit it."

The astronauts will test the shuttle's re-entry systems the next day and land back at the Kennedy Space Center, weather permitting, on Feb. 18.

"Last year was a great year for us in the international space station program," said Holloway. "I'm afraid we may have spoiled ourselves a little bit in terms of our success.

"When things go perfectly - and they were near perfect - sometimes we get used to that. And of course, the (we need to) keep our diligence up and be prepared to deal with less than perfect and recover."

Atlantis' mission has been "a long time coming," he said. "We've been working on the U.S. lab for a long time, eight or nine years. And it is an incredible piece of hardware and will add a great deal of functionality and will indeed give us more space, living room, more capability and will further entrench us on orbit in this big building job we have." "This is the year we start actually using the station," Holloway concluded. "We're well on the way. ... The laboratory is going to put is in business on the international space station."


Mission preview
Station's destiny rides on laboratory attachment
Orbital rendezvous more art than science
Lab installation a complex ballet for man and machine
The moment of truth: Destiny comes to life
Two more spacewalks, more lab outfitting on tap
A final visit before undocking and journey home

Video vault
Atlantis undocks from the international space station and performs a one-lap "fly-around" maneuver as shown in NASA animation.
  PLAY (320k, 39sec QuickTime file)