Sunday, July 26, 2009

Live In Orbit: Carrier Returned To Shuttle Cargo Bay

A carrier that hauled up the first science experiments for the International Space Station's new porch is back in the cargo bay of shuttle Endeavour for a return trip to Earth.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette used the shuttle's 50-foot robot arm to place the 5,400-pound pallet in the bay, and then retention latches snapped shut as Endeavour and the station flew 222 miles above New Zealand.

NASA astronaut Gregory "Box" Johnson congratulated the crew on a "fantastic job" throughout the docked phase of Endeavour's station assembly mission, a flight that has involved operating the shuttle arm, the station's 57-foot robotic arm and a smaller arm on the Japanese Kibo laboratory. It is the first station assembly mission during which three arms have been operated, in some cases, simultaneously.

Returning the carrier to the cargo bay was the last major crane operation scheduled during the shuttle's stay at the station. The shuttle's robot arm will be used to perform one final heat shield inspection after the shuttle departs the station on Tuesday. That work is scheduled to be done Wednesday.

Endeavour's astronauts will turn their attention to preparations for the fifth and final spacewalk of their mission. The excursion is scheduled to begin at 8:28 a.m. Monday.

Coming up this afternoon: the 13 shuttle and station astronauts will hold a joint crew news conference at 2:28 p.m.

You can watch it live here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and be sure to refresh this page for periodic updates.

Endeavour and its astronauts are due back at Kennedy Space Center at 10:52 a.m. Friday.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the NASA TV screen grabs, which show a shuttle-launched cargo carrier being moved to Endeavour's payload bay for a return trip to Earth. The carrier hauled up an x-ray astronomy observatory, a space environment experiment and a communications package that will enable the Japanese Kibo laboratory to maintain contact via satellite with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Mission Control Room at Tsukuba Space Center outside Tokyo.

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