Sunday, July 17, 2011

Atlantis nears end of work on space station

Four Atlantis astronauts have gone to sleep to conclude their last full day of work on the International Space Station.

The crew finished packing the Raffaello cargo module for its return to Earth, and has only some late science experiment samples left to pack on the shuttle middeck.

In total, NASA said 9,403 pounds of food and equipment were unloaded from Raffaello onto the station, and another 5,666 pounds loaded for the trip home.

"The module is real clean, and everything is neatly put away in the proper place, strapped down for entry in the shuttle later this week," said Chris Edelen, the mission's lead station flight director.

Sandy Magnus, the mission's loadmaster, told mission controllers the work would have been "a nightmare" if it weren't for their smart planning and sound packing of the cargo by teams at Kennedy Space Center.

"But it really did go smoothly for all that we were working really hard," she said.

The crew today also installed four boxes that will be used to drive open bolts and allow Raffaello to be pulled away from the station Monday morning.

Atlantis pilot Doug Hurley and Magnus will lift the module with the station's 58-foot robotic arm around 6:45 a.m. EDT and stow it in the shuttle payload bay.

The four shuttle astronauts and the station's six Expedition 28 crew members will gather for a farewell ceremony at 9:19 a.m.

At its conclusion, the shuttle astronauts will become the last of their kind to exit the station, floating back into Atlantis so hatches between the two spacecraft can be closed.

Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson, Hurley, Magnus and mission specialist Rex Walheim will immediately set about preparations to undock from the station at 2:28 a.m. Tuesday, installing the orbiter's centerline camera and checking out other tools.

The crew is scheduled to wake up for its last full day docked at the station at 10:29 p.m. today.

Here's the full schedule for Flight Day 11:
10:29 p.m. Sunday: Atlantis and space station crews awake
12:49 a.m. Monday: Raffaello cargo module hatch closed
2:54 a.m.: Vestibule between station and cargo module depressurized
5:34 a.m.: Station’s robotic arm grapples Raffaello
6:49 a.m.: Raffaello removed from station and installed in Atlantis’ payload bay
8 a.m.: Mission status briefing
9:19 a.m.: Farewell ceremony and hatch closure
10:09 a.m.: Atlantis crew installs centerline camera
10:49 a.m.: Checkout of rendezvous tools
1:29 p.m.: Station crew sleeps
1:59 p.m.: Atlantis crew sleeps
9:59: p.m.: Crews awake to begin Flight Day 12, prepare for undocking at 2:28 a.m. Tuesday

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