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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shuttle Prepares to Leave Mir for Last Time




Cosmonauts and astronauts packed up space shuttle Discovery on Friday for its final trip home from the Mir space station.


Space officials said the two crews were happy to see each other but saddened by their impending departure Monday.


Cosmonauts and astronauts cheered when the U.S. space shuttle Discovery docked with Mir on Thursday to ferry home the last American to live on the Russian orbiter, astronaut Andrew Thomas.


Mir itself is also nearing its last year in service, as Russian space officials plan to abandon the station in the end of 1999 and later let it burn in the atmosphere.


"It's too bad that Mir is almost finished," said Russian mission control spokeswoman Vera Medvedkova. "We will work with Americans again, on the International Space Station, but we're sorry about Mir."


"Although this is a mixed feeling," she added. "Mir has been flying for quite a time -- 12 years."


Thomas has already settled in for his ride back home, sleeping aboard the shuttle Thursday night.


Thomas was roused by Houston's mission control Friday with an Australian melody. The 46-year-old engineer was born in Australia.


"A special good morning to the South Australia native on board," mission control told the crew.


"Thanks for the wakeup music," Thomas responded. "It's good to be aboard the shuttle."


On Friday, the two crews were transferring the shuttle's cargo of water and food to Mir, and moving U.S. scientific equipment from Mir to Discovery.


The cosmonauts and astronauts will also work on several scientific experiments before the shuttle leaves, and the Russians will continue doing research under a NASA program some time into the fall.


Discovery's arrival brought the number of visitors to the space station to more than 100, according to Russian mission control.


But it was unlikely that any one person would claim the distinction of being the 100th visitor because Discovery's six-member crew included four first-timers.


Among them is the Russian co-director of the Mir-shuttle program and a designer of the Mir station, Valery Ryumin.


Ryumin has made three space flights in the past, the most recent 18 years ago, but had never before been to Mir.


"I think I have a right to see what happened to something that I spent all my life developing," Ryumin, 58, has said.