Atlantis Undocks from Space Station, Heads Home

By  | 

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (AP) - The space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the international space station and is heading back to Earth.

The space station commander continued a tradition by ringing a bell and saying "Atlantis departing."

Pilot Lee Archambault guided Atlantis on a quick trip around the station so photos could be taken of the solar power array the crew installed on the station.

Astronauts will use a camera at the end of a robotic arm and boom for a final inspection of the shuttle's heat shield to make sure it's undamaged and can withstand the intense heat of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

The inspection was added to all shuttle missions after the Columbia accident four years ago that killed seven astronauts.

Atlantis is scheduled to land on Thursday.