Endeavour heads back to earth

Final mission

Endeavour’s last mission is the penultimate flight for the 30-year-old US shuttle programme, which will end for good after the Atlantis mission to the orbiting research lab, scheduled to begin July 8.

The undocking took place at 0355 GMT on Monday, when the space station and shuttle was 350 kilometres over La Paz, Bolivia, Nasa said. It was followed by a one-lap fly-around of the station to allow the crew to take photos of the space lab.

The six-member crew of the Endeavour — five US astronauts and Italian Roberto Vittori — bade farewell to three colleagues on board the space station and closed the hatches between the shuttle and station at 1123 GMT on Sunday. Endeavour’s 16-day mission began with the shuttle’s launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 16 and will conclude when the shuttle lands back on earth early on Wednesday.

During nearly 11 days at the space station, the crew delivered and installed a massive physics experiment, the Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer-2, which will be left at the space station to scour the universe for clues about dark matter and antimatter.

They also brought up a logistics carrier with spare parts and performed some maintenance and installation work during four spacewalks.

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