Sunday, August 30, 2009

Discovery's Crew Completes Tile Inspection

Space shuttle Discovery astronauts spent their second day in space surveying the tiles and blankets which cover the spacecraft looking for any damage following their Midnight ride into space on Saturday.

Pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Jose Hernandez and Patrick Forrester spent several hours using the ship's 50-foot robotic arm and it's attached orbiter boom sensor to examine and perform a detailed look of the shuttle's aft section tiles, wing leading edges and nose section.

As of Sunday morning EDT, the crew did not see any damaged tiles or thermal blankets during the survey.

Early this morning, mission specialist and first time space flier Jose Hernandez told this reporter, "Flight Day 2 - my first full day in orbit! We used the robotic arm to do our routine inspection of the Shuttle”s thermal protection system. Also did rendezvous tool checkout!"

Meanwhile, on the mid deck, astronauts spent Saturday evening and into this morning EDT, preparing experiments and other items which will be transferred following Sunday night's docking. They also inspected the spacesuits which will be used on Tuesday's spacewalk in which Danny Olivas and Nicole Stott will go outside the station for 6 1/2-hours.

The crew will go to bed this morning at 5:30 am and awaken at 1:30 pm this afternoon to begin their third day -- docking day.

Discovery is currently in a lower orbit than the space station's so that that the shuttle can catch up at a quicker rate. Per orbital mechanics, an object in a lower orbit will circumnavigate the planet at a faster rate than an object in a higher orbit.

Beginning at 3:24 pm, Discovery's crew will begin rendezvous operations. Mission commander Rick Sturckow and pilot Ford will perform a series of jet firings to move Discovery's orbit higher as they close in on station.

An hour prior to docking, Discovery will begin a station-keeping attitude about 600 feet away, and perform a ten minute back flip so that the crew aboard the station can take several detailed images of the orbiter's belly using several camera's with 400 and 800 mm lens. The images will be sent to the ground as mission control inspects the belly for any tile damage which may have occurred during the ascent.

Discovery is scheduled to dock with the orbital outpost in space on Sunday night at 9:03 pm, as the orbital duo fly 222 miles over Poland.

Following final latching and leak checks between the two crafts, the two hatches are scheduled to open at 11PM tonight.

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