CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After eight days together, space shuttle Discovery pulled away from the International Space Station on Wednesday, beaming down stunning photos of the orbiting outpost, finally balanced and boasting all its solar wings.
NASA was thrilled to see the space station with its glistening new pair of solar wings – the final ones that will boost electrical power and science research. The shuttle took a victory lap around the station, primarily for picture-taking, and then put itself on a course for a Saturday touchdown.
With the installation last week of the last set of solar wings, the space station finally resembles the artist renderings from years past, balanced with four wings on both sides.
“You always saw it in the pictures and you just wondered if you’re really ever going to get there,” said Dan Hartman, a space station manager who’s worked on the project for 15 years. He took “an extreme amount of pride and joy” in seeing the images sent down.
NASA expects the extra electrical power to drastically increase the amount of research in the various labs that make up the 220-mile-high outpost.
“You made the space station much better than it was before,” Fincke told the shuttle astronauts just before their departure. “You gave us more power, symmetry – which is not to be underrated – and you gave us a new crew member.”