Sunday, September 06, 2009

Live in Orbit: Day of packing and rest ahead

A final flurry of packing and unpacking supplies today will put shuttle Discovery's visit to the International Space Station into the home stretch, after spacewalkers on Saturday helped pave the way for upcoming missions.

Thirteen astronauts and cosmonauts inside the outpost will continue to unload what's left of the more than 15,000 pounds of cargo flown up by Discovery's "moving van" module, and to pack it with trash and other items returning to Earth.

That work needs to finish in time for the Italian-built cargo container called Leonardo to be returned to Discovery's payload bay on Monday.

Heather Rarick, lead station flight director for the mission, said the transfer of cargo to and from the container was between 66 percent and 85 percent complete on Saturday.

"We expect to be able to finish that (Sunday)," she said.

Packing of cargo in Discovery's mid-deck is 70 percent complete and should be finished Monday, the day before the shuttle is scheduled to leave the station.

The crew members will wake up around 11:30 a.m. and start the cargo work after 2 p.m.

They should be done by 8:30 p.m., when they are scheduled to have off-duty time.

Mission managers will begin planning how to work around a power cable that couldn't be mated properly to the station's truss, which will be needed to power the Tranquility node when it is delivered in February.

They'll also examine Chrsiter Fuglesang's spacesuit helmet to try to understand why his camera came loose late in the spacewalk, leaving it hanging by a power cable.

"It looked almost like Christer was tumbling around, like he almost was falling off the structure," said Zeb Scoville, lead spacewalk officer for the mission, describing how flight controllers noticed the problem.

The pack shouldn't have happened if it was properly latched to the helmet, even if he bumped into something, Scoville said.

Fuglesang and partner Danny Olivas on Saturday completed the third and final spacewalk of Discovery's 13-day mission, deploying a cargo attach point needed for a November shuttle mission and doing preparatory work for Tranquility.

Also today, the station's 58-foot robotic arm will be moved into position for capturing an unmanned cargo spacecraft that is set to launch Thursday from Japan and reach the station Sept. 17.

Ground controllers will coordinate most of the arm's relocation, which is known as a "triple walk off."

But former Kennedy Space Center engineer Nicole Stott will get a turn at the controls, providing a little practice for capturing the spacecraft.

Discovery is scheduled to depart the station Tuesday and return home to KSC on Thursday.

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