Reiter starts journey home

Thomas Reiter (right) spent 166 days on the ISS
20 December 2006

ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter started his journey back to Earth yesterday evening when Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station. Reiter spent a total of 166 days living on the orbiting outpost.

In a short farewell ceremony ISS Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria made Reiter an honorary member of the NASA astronaut corps.

Before pinning some German Air Force wings modified with the NASA astronaut emblem on to Reiter's shirt, Lopez-Alegria said "I have been in space with thirty-two different people, and I don't think any of them displayed a greater combination of competence, conscientiousness and consistency as you. I think you are a model astronaut."

The STS-116 Shuttle crew said their farewells to the ISS Expedition 14 crew, shortly before hatches between the two spacecraft were closed at 20:42 CET (19:42 UT).

Following leak checks, Discovery undocked from the Space Station at 23:10 CET (22:10 UT), starting the three-day return journey.

The Space Shuttle is scheduled to touch down on the runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, at 21:56 CET (20:56 UT) on Friday.

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