Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Live in orbit: Atlantis heat shield inspections on tap

The crew of Altantis was awakened on its first full day in orbit to "Kyrptonite" by 3 Doors Down, a song beamed into the orbiter from NASA's Mission Control Center.

"Good morning Atlantis, and a special good morning to you today, Greg," said spacecraft communicator Shannon Lucid from Mission Control.

"Good morning, Houston," replied Greg "Ray J." Johnson, the mission's 54-year-old pilot and a first-time flyer, for whom the song was selected. "Great wake-up song, I really appreciate that."

After blasting off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:01 p.m. Monday, the crew's priority today is to inspect heat shields covering the orbiter's nose, wing leading edges and belly.

Johnson is joined on the 11-day missoin by commander Scott Altman and mission specialists Drew Feustel, Mike Good, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur.

The day's first task is to check out the payload bay device to which the Hubble Space Telescope will be attached after it is grappled on Wednesday.

Then around 7:30 a.m., the crew will begin setting up the robotic arm and 50-foot boom extension that were stowed in the shuttle's payload bay.

The boom is equipped with cameras and laser sensors that will begin scanning the orbiter's heat shields around 9 a.m.

Images taken from the inspections will be analyzed on the ground for any evidence of damage that might have occurred during Monday's launch.

No additional images will be taken from the International Space Station on this flight, adding to the importance of today's inspections.

The crew has not been able to downlink images taken from an orbiter camera that captured pictures of the external tank as it fell away Monday, but NASA commentators say those images are not considered crucial at this time and can be reviewed after the flight.

While that work is going on, some of the crew will check out the four spacesuits that will be used during five consecutive spacewalks planned to start Thursday.

The fifth and final Hubble servicing mission hopes to leave the telescope in its best condition ever for at least five more years.

Check out this official NASA mission summary and press kit for more information about the STS-125 mission.

And take a look out this NASA TV schedule for a list of each day's activities. Click on the NASA TV still image on the right side of the page to launch a viewer and follow any of the events.

This Flight Day 2 Execute Package includes a more detailed schedule of the crew's day, and notes sent to the crew from Mission Control.

While Atlantis is going about its business, workers at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B will be connecting pyrotechnic devices to shuttle Endeavour that would separate it from its mobile launcher platform, solid rocket boosters and external tank.

Endeavour would be launched as early as next Monday on a rescue mission if Atlantis has sustained irreparable damage. But early reviews of launch photography showed what appeared to be a relatively clean liftoff for Atlantis.

And at the space station, a Russian cargo freighter is scheduled to dock at 3:23 p.m. EDT.

Here are the lyrics to the tune played for "Ray J." this morning. (Click here to see a 1970s commercial featuring the comic character that gave the retired Navy pilot his call sign.)

I watched the world float to the
Dark side of the moon
After all I knew it had to be something
To do with you
I really don't mind what happens now and then
As long as you'll be my friend at the end

If I go crazy then will you still
Call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
There holding my hand
I'll keep you by my side with
My superhuman might

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