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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 September 2006, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Atlantis shuttle undocks from ISS
Atlantis undocking, seen from the ISS [AP/Nasa]
Atlantis was to circle the space station after undocking
The space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS), after a mission described as one of the most complex in recent years.

During the 11-day mission, astronauts made three spacewalks, installing solar panels on the space station.

The panels - which weigh 17 metric tons and span more than 70m - will eventually supply the station with a quarter of its electrical power.

The shuttle is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

Astronauts on ISS say farewell before Atlantis undocks [AP/Nasa]
The shuttle left the three-person ISS crew behind
The hatch connecting Atlantis to the ISS was closed and sealed at 1028 GMT after the shuttle astronauts said goodbye to their colleagues.

It pulled away from the space station more than two hours later.

After undocking, the Atlantis team planned to circle around the station to check its overall condition and beam images back to Earth.

'Triumph'

The Atlantis astronauts leave behind the station's current three-member crew, who have been living there since March.

Astronaut Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper, participates in her second spacewalk 15 Sept 2006 [AP/Nasa]
Astronauts made three space walks during the mission
The BBC's Corinne Podger says the mission represents a much-needed triumph for the US space agency Nasa.

Construction of the station was halted three years ago, after the Columbia shuttle disintegrated during its return to earth, killing seven astronauts.

The agency now says it expects construction to be completed in 2010, the same year it plans to retire the ageing shuttle fleet.




SEE ALSO
Anousheh Ansari: A passion for space travel
15 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Space station opens solar wings
14 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Shuttle astronauts complete tasks
13 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
First spacewalk for Atlantis crew
12 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off
09 Sep 06 |  Special Reports
Lockheed to build Nasa 'Moonship'
31 Aug 06 |  Science/Nature
Shuttle edges to night launches
20 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature

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