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Space shuttle Discovery astronauts enjoy rare afternoon off

March 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Before Discovery astronauts get ready for the final voyage home of their space shuttle, they enjoyed a rare afternoon off on Thursday.

With the major objectives of their joint mission behind them, the station and shuttle crews couldn't wait to gather around the big bay window to take in the majestic views of Earth.

Their day off came a day after the second and final spacewalk of Discovery's final journey.

Astronaut Alvin Drew, one of the spacewalkers, said when he first floated out earlier in the week, "I had to keep reminding myself that I had a job to do and not just take in this gorgeous scenery around me."

Shuttle commander Steven Lindsey said the mission has gone "absolutely spectacular."

Astronaut Nicole Stott said she and her crewmates have talked a lot about Discovery's final voyage. NASA's oldest shuttle will be retired once it returns to Earth next week and be sent to a museum.

"It's going to be bittersweet. The shuttle, it's amazing. Discovery looks like its first flight. It's a huge pride for the 30 years plus of the shuttle's flying and Discovery doing great work on orbit," said astronaut Eric Bow.

Discovery is set to remain at the space station until Sunday. They may get another bonus day in orbit - the decision is expected sometime Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.