On the last full day of docked operations between the crews of Atlantis and the International Space Station (ISS), the eight space travelers will continue transferring supplies and equipment in preparation for Friday morning's undocking.
Atlantis' astronauts were awakened shortly after 4 a.m. Central time today to begin their ninth day in space.
Among the final items to be transferred to the Station today are a replacement hard drive for a portable computer, the spacesuit worn by Tom Jones during his three space walks for future use, and additional tools and supplies for Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, including a screwdriver, bolts, tape and printer paper. Jones' space suit will remain on the Station for use by visiting shuttle crews and for Station-based space walks once the U.S. airlock is installed later this year.
Commander Ken Cockrell and Pilot Mark Polansky will again fire Atlantis' thrusters in two additional reboost maneuvers to gently raise the Station's altitude. Today's firings will be the sixth and seventh of the mission and should add another five statute miles to the station's altitude. Atlantis will leave the Station about 16 statute miles higher than last Friday when the Shuttle arrived.
Cockrell, Jones and Bob Curbeam will take a break from their work at 7:49 a.m. Central time today to talk with elementary and middle school students from the Baltimore area at the Maryland Science Center. Later, both crews will field questions from reporters in the U.S. and Russia during a news conference starting at 12:37 p.m.
With Atlantis scheduled to undock from the Station shortly after 8 a.m. Central time Friday, Curbeam, Jones and Marsha Ivins will check out some of the rendezvous tools they will use as Polansky gently backs Atlantis away from the Station prior to the start of a half-lap flyaround to enable the astronauts to collect detailed pictures and video of the newly expanded Station. Hatches between the two craft will be closed early Friday for the final time after the crewmembers say goodbye to one another.
Flight controllers in Houston, meanwhile, continue their checkout of the systems of the new Destiny laboratory of the ISS, reporting that the research facility is in excellent shape except for a balky pump in the carbon dioxide removal system of the Atmospheric Revitalization Rack. Troubleshooting on that pump continues, but the rack is not needed presently and controllers believe the problem will be solved before long.
The Expedition One crew - Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev - will work side by side with Atlantis' astronauts today in the transfer of equipment and will document life on board the Station with a large format IMAX camera.
Atlantis and the International Space Station are orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 237 statute miles with all systems functioning normally.
The next mission status report will be issued at 7 p.m., or sooner, if events warrant.
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