As Discovery’s crew nears the halfway point of the STS-85 mission, the astronauts continued observations of Comet Hale-Bopp using a small ultraviolet telescope mounted in Discovery’s side hatch window, and evaluated a new system for possible future use with the Shuttle’s mechanical arm.
Mission Specialist Steve Robinson conducted observations of Comet Hale-Bopp with the small ultraviolet telescope known as SWUIS or the Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System telescope. Robinson used different filters on the telescope to gather video and telemetry data on what the comet is made of and how it is responding to solar wind conditions.
While Commander Curt Brown and Pilot Kent Rominger maneuvered the orbiter to point its side hatch window toward the comet’s location, Payload Commander Jan Davis once again placed the Shuttle’s robot arm in a strategic location to shade the window during the telescope’s observations. Two more observation days are planned before Discovery’s mission comes to a close.
Davis and Robinson also evaluated a new system called the RMS Situational Awareness Displays (RSAD), which is designed to incorporate data from a variety of sources and provide crew members with enhanced visual cues when operating the Shuttle’s robot arm. RSAD is being evaluated prior to potential use on the International Space Station when astronauts will use a robot arm to maneuver large elements over long distances with extreme precision and when the arm operator may not have the benefit of a direct view during arm operations.
Brown and Rominger also continue to watch over orbiter thruster firings and rendezvous maneuvers in support of the CRISTA-SPAS satellite, now finishing its fifth day of free flight away from Discovery. The orbiter maintains a distance of between 25 and 60 nautical miles from the satellite so that investigators can communicate with the spacecraft using the shuttle as a conduit for the link. In concert with the satellite’s on-orbit data gathering, a number of ground-launched rocket and balloon validation flights are being conducted from Wallops Island off the coast of Virginia.
In addition to assisting Brown and Rominger with orbiter system oversight, Flight Engineer Bob Curbeam, today continued his work with the Bioreactor Demonstration System designed to perform cell biology experiments under controlled conditions.
Canadian Payload Specialist Bjarni Tryggvason took time out from his work with the Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM) experiment to talk with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien earlier today. Tryggvason then resumed his work with MIM which uses magnets to levitate a platform and protect sensitive microgravity processing experiments from vibrations.
Discovery’s six-member crew began an 8-hour sleep period at 4:41 p.m. central time today and awaken at 12:41 Wednesday.
The next scheduled mission status report will be issued about 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
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