Sunday, July 26, 2009

Live in orbit: Crane work, news conference ahead

Thirteen astronauts today will squeeze in front of an International Space Station camera for a news conference, an opportunity to discuss shuttle Endeavour's ongoing mission and life with a record number of people on board the orbiting outpost.

The shuttle and station crews offered a sneak preview Saturday afternoon (shown at left) during a downlinked video presentation titled, "The Partnership of the International Space Station."

"To me, having 13 people is a big milestone," said Endeavour commander Mark Polansky. "It means that we have six people full-time living on the International Space Station and starting to do real research for what it's like to go ahead and live long-term up here."

"For all of the major partners being here and represented by someone today," he added, "it means we truly are international in what we do, and it shows the kind of cooperation we can do when all of the nation's around the world work together."

"The teamwork and also the partnership of this program truly represent the future of humankind to explore the unknown and expand our knowledge and expand the human frontier in space," added Endeavour mission specialist Koichi Wakata of Japan.

While those inspriing words were spoken, engineers on the ground were trying to figure out how to fix a problem with the U.S. system that scrubs carbon dioxide from the station's air.

It shut down because of a heater problem, and the station for a time relied on the Russian segment's system, but ground controllers were able to bring it back online under manual control.

In addition to the news conference today, four astronauts will tackle the mission's last major robotic task. They'll remove a cargo palette from the new Kibo porch and stow it in Endeavour's payload bay, handing it off between the station and shuttle robotic arms to complete the task.

Endeavour mission specialists Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy, who teamed up for Friday's successful spacewalk, will prepare for the mission's fifth and final planned spacewalk Monday.

Their tasks include installing two cameras on the porch and a mechanism for storing large spare parts on the station's structural backbone, securing some protective covers and rewiring some power cables.

Here's a look at the day ahead:

++ 4:03 a.m.: Shuttle and station crews wake up.
++ 5:13 a.m.: Japanese media interviews.
++ 7:08 a.m.: Station's robotic arm grabs cargo palette from Kibo lab's "porch."
++ 8:18 a.m.: Station arm hands off palette to Endeavour's robotic arm.
++ 8:58 a.m.: Palette stowed in Endeavour's payload bay.
++ 2:28 p.m.: Joint crew news conference.
++ 3:26 p.m.: Begin procedure review for fifth spacewalk on Monday.
++ 5:58 p.m.: Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy begin pre-spacewalk "campout."
++ 7:03 p.m.: Station crew sleeps.
++ 7:33 p.m.: Endeavour crew sleeps.

You can watch it all live here. As usual, just click on the NASA TV still image on this page to launch a viewer.

Click this NASA TV schedule to see more upcoming highlights during Endeavour's mission.

The shuttle is scheduled to undock from the station Tuesday afternoon and land Friday morning at Kennedy Space Center.

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