Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crew inspects Endeavour's Thermal Surfaces

The crew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour is spending today using a laser radar and camera to slowly inspect the thermal tiles and blankets which protect the ship from the 3000 degrees heat of reentry.

A standard practice by every crew since the 2005 return to flight following the Columbia tragedy, Endeavour's crew this morning began using the ship's 50-foot robotic arm to grapple an extension boom which rests on the right side of the payload bay. The crew then used the boom extension to survey Endeavour's heat protective tiles and thermal blankets for any nicks or damage caused by debris impacts, beginning with the orbiter's sides and wings.

Following a short break at 3:15 pm EDT, the crew returned to their radar inspections at 3:51 pm to begin surveying the port side of the nose section.

Meanwhile, Endeavour continues to gain ground on her port-of-call - the huge international space station. At 3:13 pm today, the orbiter trailed the station by 7,500 miles, closing the distance by 700 miles each 90 minute orbit. Endeavour is set to dock with the orbiting outpost at 1:55 pm on Friday.

Two hours prior to docking, Endeavour will begin an orbital ballet in which it will perform a fly around of the station. Then fifty minutes before docking, Endeavour will perfom a back flip so that station crew members Mike Barratt and Koichi Wakata can use high def cameras with 800 mm and 400 mm lens' to photograph the belly section of the orbiter.

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