Sunday, April 11, 2010

VIP Calls And A Half-Day Off In Store For Discovery's Astronauts

Midway through their mission to the International Space Station, Discovery's astronauts aim to take a half-day off Monday before launching a final push to stock up the outpost before departing this weekend and then returning to Earth.

NASA says frenetically-paced shuttle missions are a sprint and expeditions aboard the station are a marathon. And a full week after their launch from Kennedy Space Center, Discovery's astronauts will get up tonight and then have a leisurely half-day of before the real work at hand starts up again.

Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamizuki, Discovery's "load master," will lead crewmates as the visiting shuttle astronauts haul supplies and equipment into the station and then float back to Discovery with trash and surplus gear that will return to Earth aboard their spaceship. That work will pick up about just before 7 a.m. Monday.

On the 49th anniversary of the launch of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin -- the first human to fly in outer space and orbit the Earth -- the joined crews of Discovery and the station will field a call from a Russian VIP -- presumably President Dmitry Medvedev -- on what is known in that country as "Cosmonautics Day."

Word has it that Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also will contact the joined crews to celebrate the first time Japan has had two astronauts simultaneously in space: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Yamizaki.

Monday also is the 29th anniversary of the first U.S. space shuttle launch. But nothing in particular seems to be planned to mark that notable date during the 131st mission in shuttle program history.

A round of space-to-ground interviews is scheduled just after 11:30 a.m. with ABC World News, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and KUSA-TV.

Preps for the mission's third and final spacewalk, which begins at 3:11 .m. Tuesday, will cap the day in space.

You can watch mission operations live here in The Flame Trench on a 24-7 basis. 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.

Check out the latest NASA TV schedule HERE

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