As shuttle mission STS-94 nears the halfway point, Columbia continues to orbit the Earth in excellent condition, providing a stable and reliable platform for more than 30 separate scientific investigations. The official halfway point of the Microgravity Science Laboratory mission will occur later this morning, just before 9:30 a.m. central, at 7 days, 20 hours and 26 minutes into the flight.
Following a brief handover with their blue team counterparts just after midnight, Columbia’s red team crew members -- Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan Still, Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg Linteris -- took over responsibility for the management of science operations aboard the Shuttle.
After starting his day with an exercise period, Halsell conducted status checks and video documentation on some of the Microgravity Science Laboratory experiments and activities being carried in the Spacelab module. The first part of Pilot Susan Still’s day involved monitoring orbiter systems and finishing troubleshooting on the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX). Still reported just before 3 a.m. today that she was seeing a good connection between the SAREX system, the Payload General Support Computer (PGSC) and the Packet Module. This interface means that SAREX operations data, such as who contact is made with, the time of contact and other information, will be recorded in the laptop computer.
Halsell and Still also spent part of their morning setting up and collecting data with the Wireless Data Acquisition System (WDAS). The WDAS is a risk mitigation experiment designed to gather orbiter cargo bay temperatures and monitor if payload hardware is approaching thermal limits. It is believed that real-time monitoring of thermal conditions for various exterior payloads on the future International Space Station may be required and a system such as WDAS might provide the support needed.
Thomas and Linteris spent their morning in the Spacelab module working on several experiments. Thomas’ has been working with the Large Isothermal Furnace (LIF), a vacuum-heating furnace designed to heat large samples uniformly; the Middeck Glovebox (MGBX) unit; and the Internal Flows in a Free Drop Experiment (IFFD). The IFFD experiment involves containerless processing of materials using acoustic positioning techniques. Linteris has worked with the Combustion Module and an experiment called the Structure of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL). Data from the SOFBALL experiment could lead to improvements in lean-burning internal combustion engines that may increase their efficiency and reduce emissions.
At 7:22 a.m. central today, Halsell and Still will take a few minutes away from orbiter activities to conduct an interview with WRDW-TV and WJBF-TV in Augusta, Georgia, the hometown of Still. During the remainder of their day, both Halsell and Still will conduct communication sessions with the SAREX. Thomas will continue his work with the Glovebox unit while Linteris continues his work with the Combustion Module.
The Blue team of crew members, Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch, will awaken at about 11 a.m. and relieve the Red team at 1 p.m. central.
The next STS-94 status report will be issued at about 6 p.m. central time today.
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