Shuttle Says Final Goodbye to Mir Station
The space shuttle Discovery disconnected from Russia’s Mir space station Monday to make its way home to Earth, bringing an end to NASA’s often turbulent relationship with the aging outpost.
Discovery slipped from the metallic grasp of Mir’s docking port at 12:01 p.m. EDT after the last visit to the Russian station by a U.S. shuttle.
The shuttle left with Andrew Thomas, NASA’s last astronaut to serve aboard Mir. In three years, seven U.S. crew members lived and worked aboard the station as part of an effort to prepare the two nations for work on a joint space station later this year.
U.S. crew members spent a total of 907 days aboard the station, and 58,000 pounds of cargo was transferred between spacecraft. Shuttles made nine visits to Mir and one close approach without a linkup.
Although the American missions to Mir were marred by a serious fire and a crash of a resupply ship, NASA officials said they had learned valuable lessons about how to run a space station.
“We’ve learned through hard knocks and tough times how to operate better, and I think that is going to pay off big dividends in the future,” said Frank Culbertson, the veteran astronaut who heads NASA’s missions to Mir.