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Monday, December 14, 1998 Published at 14:05 GMT

Space station on its own

Set free: Zarya and Unity

The Space Shuttle, Endeavour, has undocked from the embryo of the new International Space Station (ISS) at the end of the first phase of the construction of the multi-billion dollar project.

The shuttle is to return to Earth on Tuesday, but the station will remain empty until next May when the next visit is planned.

Earlier, US astronauts Jerry Ross and James Newman repaired an emergency communications antenna on the station and attached a tool bag for use by their colleagues next year.

The BBC's Josh Bassett: Access has been made easier for future visitors
Jerry Ross was hoisted by the shuttle's robot arm up to Zarya - the Russian-built control module - where he spent several minutes poking the jammed antenna.

It was the same method that James Newman had used to fix another jammed antenna during a spacewalk on Wednesday.

[ image: Coaxing out the antenna]
Coaxing out the antenna
When the antenna finally extended to its full four feet, the astronaut remarked: "There it goes! You can see it in the sun."

The tool bag which the astronauts attached to the top of Unity - the American-made side of the station - included wrenches, ratchets, clamps, bars, and foot loops.

The spacemen also tested an emergency safety system designed for the numerous spacewalks that will have to take place over the next five years as the station takes shape.

[ image: The astronauts pose for a picture after attaching the tool bag]
The astronauts pose for a picture after attaching the tool bag
In total, more than 1,100 hours of spacewalks will be required during the construction phase of the ISS - more than in the entire history of human space flight.

The ISS is the most ambitious and expensive engineering project ever undertaken, costing the 16 participating nations $60bn. NASA estimates that 43 more manned missions and 157 more space walks will be required to deliver and assemble the 100 components.

The first crew to live on the station will go into orbit in 2000 after a Russian command Module with living quarters is in place.

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In this section

Shuttle makes night landing

Shuttle launches 'disco ball'

Shuttle astronauts head home

Space station astronauts unpack bags

Space station repairs begin

Shuttle docks at space station

Perfect launch for Discovery

Hearing lost in space

New test for space 'lifeboat'

Astronauts cross new threshold

Space station comes alive

Unity and Zarya are one