CAPE CANAVERAL — With their visit winding down, the world's 10 space travelers zipped up a huge shipping crate at the international space station Wednesday for return to Earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour.
Endeavour will pull away Friday morning and land Sunday.
To prepare for Endeavour's undocking, the astronauts used the space station's robot arm to latch onto the giant canister that carried up new equipment for the space station. Items delivered 1 ½ weeks ago included a bathroom, kitchenette, two bedrooms, exercise equipment and a system for converting astronauts' urine and sweat into drinking water — all needed to double the space station's population next year to six.
Working from inside, the astronauts used the robot arm to grab and lift the canister from the orbiting outpost for placement back aboard the shuttle. The container was loaded with nearly 2 tons of discarded equipment, trash and completed science experiments.
At Mission Control's request, the astronauts had left space in the crate for the urine-recycling machine, in case it broke again and needed to be brought back.
Thanks to some tinkering by the astronauts, however, the processor churned out plenty of samples to be brought back. NASA wants to test the samples and run the equipment in orbit for at least three months before allowing anyone to drink the recycled stuff.