Shuttle to Leave Space Station After Record Stay

This NASA image shows astronauts aboard the Endeavour and International Space Station.

This NASA image shows astronauts aboard the Endeavour and International Space Station on Wednesday. The Endeavour is preparing to undock from the space station Monday to begin the journey back to Earth. NASA/AP/NASA hide caption

toggle caption NASA/AP/NASA

The space shuttle Endeavour is set to leave the International Space Station on Monday after a grueling 12-day stay during which astronauts performed a record five spacewalks.

Rookie shuttle pilot Greg Johnson will be at the controls when Endeavour undocks at 7:56 p.m. EDT and begins its two-day trip back to Earth. The shuttle is set to land at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday evening.

When the two crafts detach, spring-loaded shock absorbers will gently push them apart. That's when Johnson will use two small joysticks at the rear of the shuttle's cockpit to do a loop around the station before moving Endeavour onto its landing path.

The 12 days Endeavour has spent docked to the International Space Station is longer than any previous ISS mission. The astronauts also did a record number of spacewalks.

During their mission, the seven shuttle astronauts and the three-member space station crew attached the first piece of a Japanese laboratory to the station.

The three-piece Kibo lab, which means "hope," is Japan's main contribution to the $100 billion station and will be its largest science facility when completed next year.

The crews also assembled a Canadian maintenance robot known as Dextre.

Dextre will be used for outside maintenance on the International Space Station, in some cases replacing spacewalking astronauts.

From NPR and wire reports

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