In an emotional farewell, astronauts and cosmonauts embraced and sang “Those Were the Days” Friday before closing the hatches between their linked American and Russian spaceships.
“It’s most difficult to say goodbye, and the Russians have a much better expression, which is ‘do svidaniye’ - until we see each other again,” said Kenneth Cameron, commander of NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis.
Atlantis was due to undock and fly away from the Russian Mir station early today, three days after the two spaceships docked together for the second time.
Five more shuttle-Mir linkups are planned as the two nations, once enemies, gear up to build an international space station.
The eight men were visibly moved as they patted each other’s shoulders and clasped hands.
They closed with a song, the 1960s hit “Those Were the Days.”
Two hours later, after one last handshake between Cameron and Mir’s Russian commander Yuri Gidzenko, the two hatches between the shuttle and station were sealed.