Thursday, March 03, 2011

Discovery and station crews spend quieter day on orbit

Cady Coleman with the carbon dioxide removal system (NASA)

As the space shuttle Discovery remains docked today with the International Space Station, twelve humans continue to live and work 222 miles high above the earth.

On the heels of three days devoted to two spacewalks and the installation of a new 21-foot long pressurized storage module, the crews spent Thursday at a quieter pace as they increased the station's altitude and answered questions from news media.

Station commander Scott Kelly and flight engineer Cady Coleman spent their morning swapping out the front bed of the carbon dioxide removal facility in the Tranquility node.

There are two beds which work in tandem with one another in a black box machine. While one is cleaning the CO2 from the crews atmosphere, the other bed is recharging. There are several other CDRF's throughout the space station.

During the work, shuttle Discovery began firing her thrusters at 9:03 a.m. EST, to reboost the space station into an orbit nearly one mile higher.

Crew members began discussing by radio across the space station if they felt Discovery's thrusters firing and moving the complex, and one said "actually I can feel it".

The reboost of the station is designed to support a March 16 undocking by a Russian Soyuz TMA-01M, which Kelly and Russian flight engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka docked to the complex on October 9.

Discovery's crew this afternoon received word that their flight would be extended yet another day. Discovery is now set to depart the space station on Monday at 7:03 a.m. and return home to the Kennedy Space Center for a landing on Wednesday at about noon EST.

NASA's mission control stated the additional day will give the space station crew more helpers "to unpack and outfit the Permanent Multipurpose Module and fill the (Japanese) H-II Transfer Vehicle with trash before its planned late-March undocking".

The two crews also received a phone call from the White House and President Obama prior to ending their day.

The president enjoyed a light hearted conversation with Discovery commander Steve Lindsey his seventh crew member "Robonaut 2".

Robonaut 2 is a gold humanized robot with hands much like a human including how it can grasp items. It will be placed outside the space station in a few months to perform chores which could be hazardous to a spacewalking astronaut.

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