Weather permitting, Endeavour and its crew of seven will return to the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow morning, concluding a successful mission to install a new-generation robotic arm on the International Space Station, and a journey of more than 4.8 million miles.
In preparation for tomorrow's landing opportunities, Commander Kent Rominger, Pilot Jeff Ashby and Flight Engineer John Phillips verified the performance of Endeavour's flight control systems and surfaces and steering jets. Mission Specialists Chris Hadfield, Scott Parazynski, Yuri Lonchakov and Umberto Guidoni stowed away much of the equipment the crew has used over the past 11 days in space. All seven crew members also were scheduled for some time off today to relax.
Preliminary forecasts at the three-mile long Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida are not promising for tomorrow's opportunities, with the possibility of rain and high winds in the area. The back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California has been called up to provide Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain and his team of flight controllers with additional options in returning Endeavour to Earth.
There are two opportunities for Endeavour to return to the Kennedy Space Center tomorrow. The first would see a deorbit burn to slow Endeavour down and drop it out of orbit, occuring at 6:55 a.m., with landing to follow at 8:04 a.m. Central time. There is a second opportunity one orbit later with a deorbit burn at 8:31 a.m. resulting in a 9:39 a.m. landing.
There are also two opportunities to land at Edwards Air Force Base tomorrow, at 11:11 a.m. and 12:47 p.m. respectively. Throughout the night, flight controllers will continue to look at weather conditions at both landing sites formulating plans to bring Endeavour home.
Endeavour's crew is scheduled to be awakened at 11:41 p.m. today and will begin preparations for their possible return trip home shortly after 3 a.m. tomorrow.
In the meantime, with the arrival of the three-member Soyuz taxi crew, the first activity on board the International Space Station today was an extensive safety briefing conducted by Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev. The briefing included familiarizing the crew with station systems and evacuation routes. Crew members then swapped their custom-fitted Soyuz seatliners from one vehicle to another, and transferred some cargo from Soyuz to the station, setting up a plasma crystal experiment.
The next status report will be issued following Endeavour's landing, or as events warrant.
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