Sunday, September 06, 2009

Live In Orbit: Astronauts Aim To Finish Packing

Discovery's astronauts aim to finish packing up a cylindrical cargo carrier at the International Space Station today so it can be stowed back in the shuttle's cargo bay for a return trip to Earth.

The seven shuttle astronauts and their six station crewmates already have completed transferring about 85 percent of the 8.5 tons of supplies and equipment from the Leonardo "moving van," which is berthed to the Earth-facing port of the U.S. Harmony module.

About three tons of trash, surplus gear and equipment is being packed in carrier for a return trip to Earth. The Italian-built module is to be packed back in Discovery's cargo bay on Monday in advance of the shuttle's scheduled departure on Tuesday.

Also coming up today: A triple walk-off of the station's 57-foot robot arm, which will be positioned for the Sept. 17 capture the first Japanese HTV space freighter.

The Canadian-built arm has two identical latching end effectors, which enable either end of the arm to latch on to grapple fixtures at various places outside the station.

One end of the arm now is latched to a fixture on the Harmony module. The other is free. The free end will be latched to a grapple fixture on the U.S. Destiny lab. Then the end latched to Harmony will be freed and subsequently latched to a grapple fixture on the station's Mobile Transporter, a cart that runs on rails atop the station's central truss.

The "inch-worming" from one spot to another will put the arm in position to capture the Japanese HTV freighter so it can be berthed to the nadir, or Earth-facing, port of the Harmony module. That port currently is occuppied by Leonardo.

The astronauts woke up today to the song "Rocket," which was written by Andrew Peterson, a friend of Discovery mission specialist Patrick Forrester.

A few Discovery crew members will take part in media interviews at 1:54 p.m.

The shuttle crew will have a half-day off duty this evening.

Discovery is due back at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

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