Friday, February 25, 2011

Discovery crew begins shuttle inspections with arm

Discovery pilot Eric Boe during a engine burn today. (NASA)

The crew aboard the space shuttle Discovery nudged their craft a bit higher as they prepare for Saturday's arrival at the International Space Station.

Discovery fired the ship's right orbital maneuvering jet at 9:44 a.m. EST, to help adjust the craft's orbit as it trailed the station by several thousand miles.

Commander Steve Lindsey and pilot Eric Boe fired the engine for 13 seconds to increase the shuttle's speed by 7 mph.

A small increase as the shuttle flies at an average speed of 17,300 mph or 5 miles per second.

Minutes later, crew members began work to use the Discovery's robotic arm to survey regions of her thermal protective tiles and blankets.

The fifty-foot Canadian-built robotic arm grappled an extension boom known as the Orbiter Sensor Boom which carries an infrared camera at the opposite end.

It's this camera which is used with a laser to scan both the thermal tiles and blankets which cover the skin of Discovery, and check for any debris hits or punctures during her dramatic launch yesterday.

The crew began scanning the spacecraft's right side before moving over to the left side late. In all the scans take about six hours to complete.

The second day of the final flight of Discovery began on a musical note this morning.

Discovery's six member crew awoke to the music "Through Heavens Eyes" for crew member Mike Barratt, as Discovery flew over the southern Pacific at 6:54 a.m.

Discovery's crew of all space veterans include commander Lindsey, pilot Boe and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Barratt and Nicole Stott.

Discovery is expected to close in and dock to earth's orbital outpost in space at 2:19 p.m. on Saturday.

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