More than halfway through their planned 11 day flight, Discovery’s astronauts today took a hands off approach to operations with many of the payloads on board including the small robot arm being tested for future use on the International Space Station.
The Manipulator Flight Demonstration experiment, or Small Fine Arm, supplied by the National Space Development Agency of Japan, was powered up for a final day of operations. The tests today, however, center on the ability of the arm to be remotely operated from the ground instead of onboard by the crew. The ground commanded maneuvers of the arm demonstrated the usefulness of conducting work in space even while the crew is asleep or busy with other tasks.
This morning’s wakeup call to the crew was in honor of Canadian Payload Specialist Bjarni Tryggvason’s work with an experiment vibration isolation system, called MIM. The Beach Boys’ "Good Vibrations" woke the crew to begin its seventh flight day at about 12:40 this morning.
While Tryggvason works with the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount, Flight Engineer Bob Curbeam continues his work with the Bioreactor Demonstration System designed to perform cell biology experiments under controlled conditions.
Payload Commander Jan Davis and Mission Specialist Steve Robinson watched over the ground commanded maneuvers of the small robot arm in the payload bay and later plan to take control of it for a final demonstration of its ability to remove and replace a simulated orbital replacement unit.
Commander Curt Brown and Pilot Rominger fired Discovery’s thrusters to slowly phase in toward the CRISTA-SPAS satellite in order to maintain a distance of between 25 and 40 nautical miles from the satellite so that investigators can communicate with the spacecraft using the shuttle as a conduit for the link.
The crew is scheduled to go to sleep about 3:30 this afternoon and wake up at 11:41 tonight.
The next scheduled mission status report will be issued late this afternoon.
- end -