The Space Shuttle Columbia continues to orbit the Earth in excellent condition, providing a stable and reliable platform for more than 30 separate scientific investigations being conducted on board.
The seven crew members, working in two teams to provide 24-hour science support to the investigations, are devoting most of their attention to working with the Microgravity Science Laboratory experiments. Earlier today, Pilot Susan Still discussed procedures for stowing one of those experiments, a plant growth investigation called Astro-PGBA, with the flight control team in Houston.
Astro-PGBA is currently located in the Express Rack in the Spacelab module, where it will remain until the crew begins stowage activities in anticipation of a planned July 17th landing at the Kennedy Space Center. For both launch and landing, Astro-PGBA is stowed in two middeck lockers. Once on orbit, the experiment was moved to the Express Rack in the Spacelab module, and two empty lockers from the Express Rack were moved to the middeck. At that time, the crew encountered some difficulty in removing a long-handled allen wrench from a bolt in the lower left hand corner of the middeck stowage position. Earlier today, Still made a careful survey of the area today, checking all four bolts, removing and reinstalling lockers and reported to the flight control team that she had no problem with the locker or bolts. Based on Still’s input, Astro-PGBA will be stowed in its planned stowage location for entry.
Shortly before 2 p.m. today, Mission Commander Jim Halsell, Payload Commander Janice Voss and Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt spoke with astronaut Mike Foale aboard the Mir space station during a 10-minute ham radio contact that was routed to Columbia’s crew. At the time of the conversation, the two spacecraft were about 1,100 miles apart with Mir tracking southeast from Canada over much of the mid-western United States before passing over Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. Columbia, meanwhile, was skirting the coast of Central America and crossing over the northern portions of South America throughout the conversation. The astronauts discussed the docking of the Progress resupply vehicle to Mir, with Foale’s Mir 23 crew mate Alexander Lazutkin announcing that "Christmas had arrived." Foale also invited Columbia’s crew over for a cup of tea, after a fresh supply arrived on the Progress.
The Blue team, Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch, assumed responsibility for orbiter and science operations shortly after 1 p.m. today and continue their support of combustion investigations in the Spacelab module. The Red team – Halsell, Still, Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg Linteris, will awaken just after 11 p.m. to mark the start of Flight Day 9 for the Microgravity Science Laboratory Mission.
The next STS-94 status report will be issued at about 6 a.m. central time Wednesday.
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