Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Discovery's crew prepares for Wednesday's Florida landing

Pilot Eric Boe practices landing Discovery today. (NASA)

The six member crew aboard the space shuttle Discovery spent today powering up systems and preparing for the spacecraft for landing and closing out her thirty-ninth and final spaceflight.

NASA states favorable weather is on tap for tomorrow's 11:57 a.m. EST, landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

Wednesday's weather outlook for the Space Coast is calling for scattered clouds by late morning, and winds out of the east southeast at about 15 m.p.h.

On Wednesday, Discovery commander Steve Lindsey and pilot Eric Boe will fire the craft's orbital maneuvering system engines for three minutes at 10:52 a.m. EST, to slow Discovery down by 250 m.p.h, allowing Discovery to begin her free fall out of earth orbit.

Discovery will be flying at this time with the tail in the direction of travel and payload bay toward earth.

As Discovery's final minutes in space tick down, the spacecraft's nose will pitch forward 140-degrees as Lindsey lines up Discovery for reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

Entry interface comes thirty minutes prior to touchdown at an altitude of 400,000 feet on Discovery's 203 orbit of the STS-133 flight.

NASA will not activate Edwards, AFB in California as a back up landing site on Wednesday, only Kennedy. Discovery can stay aloft as late as Friday if necessary.

When Discovery rolls to a stop tomorrow, the most launched manned spacecraft in world history will have traveled a total of 5,831 orbits of the earth since her first flight in August 1984.

Discovery's odometer will read 148,000,000 miles flown during thirty-nine space flights.

Her combined missions during nearly twenty-seven years will have kept her flying a full 365 days in space.

At 8:35 a.m. today, pilot Boe sat in the commander's seat and used PILOT software on a laptop to practice a few landing's simulations into the space center's runway. Lindsey looked over his shoulder while commenting as he worked the joy stick.

At noon today, Discovery's crew will pay tribute to their spacecraft as she sails into the sunset of her career.

As Discovery flew into the darkness of space earlier today, Lindsey and Boe fired the ship's reaction control system jets for several seconds to test how plume reacts in space as a test for the U.S. military.

Known as Rambo, the jets were fired at 7:23 a.m. while data was collected by a nearby military satellite in this experiment for future military spacecraft such as the X-37B space plane, which continues to soar in earth orbit one hundred miles higher than the shuttle.

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