Columbia’s crew spent its fifth day in space making final preparations for Monday’s spacewalking retrieval of the Spartan science satellite while continuing work with other experiments inside the shuttle cabin.
The crew was given the go-ahead for Astronauts Winston Scott and Takao Doi to prepare to recapture the Spartan satellite, released from Columbia on Friday, by hand during a spacewalk Monday evening. Scott and Doi will recapture the satellite using a procedure similar to one they rehearsed prior to the flight in the event the robotic arm could not be used to retrieve the satellite. Facing each other on opposite sides of the cargo bay, Doi and Scott will stand in foot restraints mounted on a support structure to which Spartan is normally latched.
As Commander Kevin Kregel flies Columbia to a point where Spartan is a few feet above the cargo bay, Doi and Scott will watch the satellite’s rotation and then lean forward and grab it as it moves into the appropriate position. The satellite then will be lowered into its latches in the cargo bay. The crew spent about three hours today reviewing all of the plans for the spacewalk, and flight controllers passed along insights gained from evaluations of the plans that have been performed in a variety of facilities at the Johnson Space Center. The spacewalk is planned to begin at about 6:16 p.m. CST Monday. Columbia is predicted to reach the vicinity of Spartan about 7:01 p.m. CST. The retrieval is expected to take only about the first two hours of the six-hour spacewalk, leaving Doi and Scott ample time to complete many of the International Space Station assembly tests planned for the mission.
Later this evening, the crew will lower the air pressure in Columbia’s cabin from the normal sea-level pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch to 10.2 pounds per square inch, the pressure equivalent of about 10,000 feet altitude. The lower pressure helps prepare the spacewalkers to purge nitrogen from their bodies to prevent a condition commonly known as the bends when they go to the lower pressure, pure oxygen spacesuits tomorrow.
Columbia is about 43 statute miles from the Spartan, separating a few tenths of a mile with each orbit. A small engine firing later tonight will keep Columbia at a distance of around 46 miles from Spartan until it begins closing in tomorrow for the retrieval. The crew will go to sleep at 4:46 a.m. Monday and awaken at 12:46 p.m.
The next Mission Control status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Monday.
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