The STS-89 astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour are set to conclude their voyage in space at 4:35 p.m. Central time tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following today’s checkout of systems that will be used during reentry and landing. With weather forecasts continuing to be very favorable for both KSC landing opportunities, mission managers have elected to not call up support at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Saturday.
Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Joe Edwards and Mission Specialist Mike Anderson spent the morning testing Endeavour’s flight control surfaces and thruster jets to ensure they are ready to support the Shuttle’s high speed return to Earth.
The astronauts’ final day on orbit was also devoted to stowing equipment and finishing experiment work in the Spacehab module in the cargo bay. The crew will go to bed this evening at 9:48 p.m. Central time for an eight hour sleep period which will end with a wakeup call from Mission Control tomorrow morning at 5:48 a.m. CST.
Earlier today, the STS-89 crew took a break from their end of mission preparation activities to conduct an interview with the Associated Press and ABC Radio. During the interview Dave Wolf said he was looking forward to the comforts of home as he prepares for his return to Earth after 128 days in space, most of it as a crewmember on board the Mir Space Station.
Wilcutt, Wolf and Bonnie Dunbar also received a congratulatory phone call from NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin near the end of their workday. Dunbar paid tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Skylab program, which saw nine astronauts spend extended time on orbit in what amounted to America’s first space station. Dunbar was a flight controller who helped supervise the controlled reentry of Skylab in 1979 following the end of the program. Anderson also delivered a commemorative message marking Saturday’s 40th anniversary of the launch of America’s first satellite, Explorer 1, which occurred just a few months after Russia’s launching of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1.
Aboard the Mir, Commander Anatoly Solovyev, Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Andy Thomas are awaiting the arrival of the Mir 25 cosmonauts, Commander Talgat Musabayev, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin and French researcher Leopold Eyharts, who are scheduled to dock to the Russian station Saturday at 12:13 p.m. Central time. Musabayev and Budarin will replace Solovyev and Vinogradov, who will return to Earth on February 19 with Eyharts. Thomas will spend the rest of his four-month research mission with Musabayev and Budarin, who will remain on the Mir until August.
Endeavour’s deorbit preparations on Saturday will begin just before 11:30 a.m. CST. Saturday followed by the closing of the Shuttle’s payload bay doors at about 12:50 p.m. The astronauts are scheduled to don their launch and entry suits shortly after 2 p.m. and will strap into their seats about 2:30 p.m. Entry Flight Director John Shannon is expected to poll the flight control team for the final decision for the deorbit burn 20 minutes prior to the planned firing of Endeavour’s orbital maneuvering system engines at 3:28 p.m.
Endeavour is orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 240 statute miles with all of its systems working well.
The next STS-89 status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Central time on Saturday.
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