Saturday, July 25, 2009

Live in orbit: Rest day for Endeavour crew

Endeavour astronauts plan to enjoy a well-deserved day off today aboard the International Space Station, after a successful spacewalk Friday finished swapping out an old set of solar array batteries.

"All of the crew did just a wonderful job today," said Holly Ridings, lead station flight director. "We declared success with that part of the mission. We're all very pleased."

Endeavour mission specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn conducted the more than seven-hour spacewalk to replace the last four of six batteries at the far left end of the station's main truss.

Mission specialist Julie Payette and pilot Doug Hurley used the station's 58-foot robotic arm to position a cargo carrier holding the batteries in the right place.

And station flight engineer Tim Kopra, who flew up on Endeavour, guided the spacewalkers through their paces throughout the day.

The spacewalk was the 129th supporting station assembly and maintenance, all of which now total 805 hours and 42 minutes.

Endeavour's crew has logged 25 hours and 36 minutes over the first four spacewalks.

Just one more of five planned spacewalks now remains in the 16-day mission, and managers are reviewing what activities will get top priority.

They're mostly considered "get-ahead" items that aren't as critical as work already accomplished with the batteries or the addition of a new "porch" and experiments to the Japanese Kibo lab complex.

"We'll look for efficiencies, and for ways to make sure that we can get all of the tasks done that we set out to do," said Kieth Johnson, the mission's lead spacewalk officer. "I know the crew is looking forward to a day off (Saturday), and we'll send them some messages letting them what they can prepare for, and they'll take Sunday to get ready for the EVA, and the we're done."

After Friday's spacewalk, the mission's fourth, the cargo carrier holding six old batteries was successfully deposited back in Endeavour's payload bay. A similar procedure Sunday will return a Japanese payload palette to Endeavour.

Ridings said Endeavour's crew deserved a break.

"On a very long mission like this, it's very important that they get some time to recuperate and recover, and really just to enjoy being on orbit as a 13-person crew, so we're really excited that they have that opportunity," she said.

Endeavour launched July 15 from Kennedy Space Center, and the crew worked about nine straight days before earning the day off.

Here's a look at the day ahead (all times Eastern):

++ 4:33 a.m.: Shuttle and station crews wake up.
++ 8:03 a.m.: Media interviews.
++ 8:23 a.m.: Off-duty period begins.
++ 11 a.m.: Mission status briefing (could be cancelled).
++ 7:33 p.m.: Station crew sleeps.
++ 8:03 p.m.: Endeavour crew sleeps.

You can watch all the mission's coverage live here. Click on the NASA TV still image on the right side of this page to launch a viewer.

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