Shuttle crew ready to leave space station

 

The astronauts of the space shuttle Endeavoursaid goodbye to the International Space Station today, leaving a new crew aboard the orbiting research outpost for a four-month sojourn in space.

The ten astronauts and cosmonauts on the two space vehicles gathered for a farewell ceremony, snapping pictures and exchanging best wishes before closing the hatches between the ships as they passed high over the southern Pacific Ocean.

"We're just getting one last picture here ... and then we'll start to close the hatches," astronaut Daniel Bursch radioed to Mission Control in Houston during the ceremony.

The 200-tonne shuttle and the 300-tonne space station have been locked together since June 7, when Endeavourarrived to deliver the ISS Expedition 5 crew of Russians Valery Korzun and Sergei Treschev and American Peggy Whitson.

The Americans set a new US space endurance record on the mission. They have been in space 192 days, passing the 188-day mark set in 1996 by astronaut Shannon Lucid aboard the Russian Mir space station.

The crew performed three spacewalks during its week long visit to the space station.