WASHINGTON — The US space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station early Monday and started its trek back to Earth, winding up it final mission in orbit before retirement.
The American shuttle, the first of the three-member fleet set to become a museum piece when the three-decade-long program ends later this year, separated from the ISS at 7:00 am (1200 GMT).
Discovery and its six-member crew of American astronauts bid farewell to their six colleagues aboard the orbiting lab after spending eight days and 16 hours there working on repairs and installing a new spare closet module, NASA said.
Discovery is expected to land back on Earth Wednesday, March 9, after a 13-day final space trip for the oldest and most traveled shuttle in the US space program.
Endeavour is to lift off on April 19 followed by Atlantis on June 28, marking the official end of the US space shuttle program after 30 years.