Now into the second half of their planned 11 day flight, Discovery’s astronauts today took a hands off approach to operations with the small robot arm being tested for future use on the International Space Station.
In an effort to cycle the crew’s wake/sleep periods around for the end of the mission time frame, Commander Curt Brown, Pilot Kent Rominger, Mission Specialists Jan Davis, Robert Curbeam, Steve Robinson and Canadian Payload Specialist Bjarni Tryggvason are already into a sleep period which began at 3:41 p.m. CDT.
The Manipulator Flight Demonstration experiment, or Small Fine Arm, supplied by the National Space Development Agency of Japan, was powered up today for a fourth 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.
Davis and Robinson watched over the ground commanded maneuvers of the small robot arm in the payload bay and later took over control of the arm for a final demonstration of its ability to remove and replace a simulated orbital replacement unit.
Some final ground control operations of the mechanical arm had been planned following the ORU work but was not completed due to a communication problem. Flight controllers believe a commanding problem exist somewhere onboard in the network system of laptop computers that support MFD ground command tests. The flight team is now looking at the possibility of adding additional time for MFD operations sometime on Flight Day Nine.
Tryggvason performed additional tasks with the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount experiment while Curbeam continued his work with the Bioreactor Demonstration System designed to perform cell biology experiments under controlled conditions.
Brown and Rominger continued to periodically fire Discovery’s thrusters to maintain the desired distance window with the CRISTA-SPAS satellite so that investigators can communicate with the spacecraft using the shuttle as a conduit for the link.
The Shuttle is also being maneuvered on a regular basis to support observation requirements with the variety of experiments being carried on the Technology Applications and Science (TAS) and International Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhike (IEH) payloads being carried in the payload bay of Discovery.
TAS holds seven separate experiments that will provide data on the Earth’s topography and atmosphere, study the sun’s energy and test new thermal control devices. The four experiments comprising the IEH payload will study ultraviolet radiation from the stars, the sun and other sources in the solar system.
Approximately 150 different maneuvers are planned to support STS-85 science activities. Because of the high number of required attitude changes, about 5-6 maneuvers are performed remotely by the flight control team while the crew is asleep each evening.
Early this morning, Brown took a break from his orbiter duties, to conduct an interview with WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. Brown discussed the work being done with the MFD mechanical arm and the data being collected by the CRISTA-SPAS satellite.
The STS-85 crew will receive its wake up call from Mission Control at 11:41 p.m. this evening to begin the eighth day of on orbit operations.
The next scheduled mission status report will be issued about 6 a.m. on Thursday morning.
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