With crewmembers aboard Discovery ready for their return to Earth, the new Expedition Three crew aboard the International Space Station prepared for the arrival of a Progress resupply vehicle early tomorrow morning.
Discovery is about 1,300 statute miles ahead of the space station and widening the gap by about 50 miles per 90-minute orbit. The seven-member crew – Commander Scott Horowitz, Pilot Rick Sturckow, Mission Specialists Dan Barry and Pat Forrester, along with the returning Expedition Two crew members, Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Susan Helms and Jim Voss – were awakened at 3:10 a.m. CDT to begin a day with two landing opportunities at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Weather conditions in Florida hold promise for today’s landing, but the entry team of flight controllers will be watching for a chance of rain near the landing site.
The first opportunity would see a deorbit burn at 10:37 a.m., resulting in an 11:46 a.m. CDT (12:46 p.m. EDT) landing. Discovery would descend across southern Mexico, cross the Bay of Campeche, skirt the northwestern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, and cross the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall on Florida’s western coast. For the second opportunity, the deorbit burn would occur at 12:17 p.m. The shuttle would cross northern Mexico, descend over the Rio Grande near Laredo, and fly along the Gulf Coast before crossing the Florida peninsula for a 1:23 p.m. landing.
Aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition Three crew – Commander Frank Culbertson and Cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin – were awakened a little after midnight for the undocking of the Progress 4 vehicle. That spacecraft was moved to make way for the Progress 5 cargo vehicle which launched at 4:24 a.m. Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is scheduled to dock at the rear of the space station’s Zvezda Service Module about 5 a.m. tomorrow.
Progress 4 docked to the space station last May 22 with a cargo of equipment, food, fuel and spare computer parts. After unloading, it was refilled with trash. Just before 1 a.m. flight controllers at Moscow’s Mission Control Center sent the command for it to undock. About three minutes later, springs pushed it away from the station, and three minutes after that, Progress jet thrusters were fired to increase the separation rate. At about 4 a.m. a deorbit burn command initiated its descent to fiery destruction in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Discovery is circling the Earth every 90 minutes at an average altitude of about 240 statute miles. Systems aboard the shuttle and the space station are functioning well.
The next mission status report will be issued following Discovery’s landing, or as events warrant.
- end -