Soyuz TMA-17 undocks from station

The Russian Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft, carrying outgoing Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov, Timothy Creamer and Soichi Noguchi, undocked from the International Space Station Tuesday evening, setting the stage for landing in Kazakhstan to close out a five-and-a-half-month mission.

Undocking from the Zvezda command module's aft port occurred on time at 8:04 p.m. EDT as the two spacecraft were sailing 215 miles above eastern Mongolia.

"No issues, a smooth departure," someone radioed as the Soyuz backed away from the space station. A few moments later, a translator passed along someone saying "Bye bye, station. ... A beautiful view."

The view from the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft moments after undocking.
(Photo: NASA TV)

The Soyuz TMA-17 and the moon as seen from a space station camera.
(Photo: NASA TV)

The Soyuz TMA-17, the moon and Earth's limb. (Photo: NASA TV)

If all goes well, Kotov will oversee a computer-orchestrated de-orbit rocket firing at 10:34:40 p.m., a four-minute 21-second burn designed to slow the spacecraft by about 258 mph and drop it out of orbit.

Just before falling into the discernible atmosphere at an altitude of about 62 miles, the three modules making up the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft were expected to separate. The crew, strapped into the central descent module, will fall into the atmosphere at 11:02 p.m., protected from the heat of re-entry by an ablative heat shield.

Commands to deploy the spacecraft's braking parachute system are expected at 11:10 p.m., setting up a landing near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, around 11:24 p.m. This status report will be updated after landing or as conditions warrant.