Saturday, August 29, 2009

Discovery Crew Inspects Thermal Tiles

The crew of the space shuttle Discovery awoke this afternoon to begin their second day in space and will spend the day inspecting the thermal tiles of the orbiter and preparing for Sunday night's docking with the international space station.

The seven member crew awoke at 2:30 pm EDT, to the music of Gene Autry's Back in the Saddle Again, for mission commander Rick Sturckow - a former California rancher himself.

The crew awoke following a brief sleep period following a beautiful launch at the stroke of Midnight EDT this morning.

Discovery's 37th crew includes pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.

On board Discovery in the aft section of her payload bay is the Leonardo module filled with racks of equipment, experiments and supplies for the station's crew of six. Leonardo is a pressurized module carrying such items as
a huge freezer for storing new growth samples; a treadmill which will arrive in two parts; and a new sleeping compartment. Food, water, oxygen and fuel is among the 5,200 pounds of new items for the station's crew.

Late afternoon on Sunday, Discovery will begin its final approach as the craft moves to 600 feet from the space station. It will be at this point at 8:02 pm where the orbiter will perform a back flip to allow two of the station's crew members to photograph the belly of the orbiter. The photographs will be sent to the ground as Mission Control looks for any tile damage which may have occurred at launch.

Discovery will then move into position to fly payload bay first as it's docking adapter connects with the space station docking port at 9:03 pm EDT.

Once docked the two crafts will pressurize the docking modules, check for leaks and open the hatches at 10:58 pm to begin eight days of docked operations.

Stott, a space rookie who worked during the 1990's at the Kennedy Space Center processing space shuttles such as Endeavour, will switch places with current resident Tim Kopra and begin a two month stay as a flight engineer aboard earth's orbital outpost.

On Monday evening at 6:19 pm EDT, the station robotic arm having grappled the Leonardo module will dock it to the American Harmony module.

Discovery is scheduled to land back at the Kennedy Space Center at 7:06 pm EDT of September 10th after 202 orbits of the earth, and nearly 13 days in space.

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