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Endeavour undocks from space station, heads for home

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A video camera on the exterior of the International Space Station captured this image of space shuttle Endeavour a little less than an hour after the two spacecraft undocked. A NASA TV photo

HOUSTON (PTI): US space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six departed from the International Space Station and headed back to Earth wrapping up NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight.

The undocking took place at 11:55 pm (0355 GMT Monday), at a time when the space station and shuttle was 215 miles (350 kilometres) over La Paz, Bolivia, NASA said.

The six-member crew of Endeavour – five US astronauts and Italian Roberto Vittori – bid farewell to three colleagues on board the orbital station and closed the hatches between the shuttle and station at 7:23 am (1123 GMT) Sunday.

The parting goodbyes between the ISS crew and the six members of the Endeavour crew, led by shuttle commander Mark Kelly, took place around 7 a m EDT Sunday, terminating around 11 total days of connection between the two spacecraft.

Kelly was the final crew member to walker, float off the ISS.

"We're looking forward to getting home," Kelly said, "and we're going to leave these guys to some peace and quiet and not disturb their space station any more".

In total, the Endeavour crew has been on four spacewalks and has performed a series of equipment installations as part of Endeavour's final mission.

The astronauts delivered a $2 billion cosmic ray detector to the International Space Station - the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 - whose 15,251 pounds of magnets and detectors are designed to assist researchers in searching for "unusual" types of matter.

The six crew members now face two days of travel before NASA's second-to-last manned shuttle mission arrives back on the planet.

It's the last such voyage for Endeavour, however, the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to liftoff on NASA's final crewed shuttle voyage on July 8.

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 June 1.

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Endeavour  Undock  ISS  
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