With mapping operations complete and Endeavour's radar mapping hardware stowed, astronauts today conducted checks of various flight control surfaces and thruster jets in preparation for tomorrow’s return to Earth.
After wrapping up mapping operations at 5:54 a.m. Central time today with a final pass over Australia, Endeavour’s crew retracted the 200-foot mast into its payload bay canister. The mast, the longest rigid structure ever deployed in space, supported the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission's external antenna structure during more than 222 hours of data gathering.
Mast retraction proceeded smoothly as each of its 86 external sections, or bays, folded into the nine-foot-long canister during the 18-minute retraction procedure. Final mast stowage was delayed when the three latches on the lid of the mast canister failed to engage as expected. The first two efforts failed to secure the latches, but the third attempt succeeded and all three latches on the mast canister were activated at 9:50 a.m. Central time.
The SRTM mapped almost 100 percent of all planned sites around the world, a total area of more than 47.6 million square miles. The area mapped four times represents more than twice the area of the United States. SRTM project scientist Dr. Mike Kobrick called SRTM “a truly outstanding achievement.” New images released today showed Fiji; the San Francisco Bay area; Pasadena, CA; the San Andreas Fault near Palmdale, CA; and an animated fly-around from Pasadena to Palmdale along the San Andreas Fault.
This afternoon, Commander Kevin Kregel, Pilot Dom Gorie and flight engineer Janet Kavandi tested Endeavour’s flight control surfaces and reaction control system thrusters. Deactivation and stowage of radar mapping hardware and the Ku antenna were completed, and members of the Red Team – Kregel, Kavandi and Gerhard Thiele -- began cabin stowage. The Blue Team – Gorie, payload commander Janice Voss and Japanese astronaut Mamoru Mohri -- will complete stowage tomorrow morning. The Blue Team began its sleep period at 5:44 p.m., and will be awakened at 1:14 a.m. Tuesday.
There are three landing opportunities available tomorrow, two at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the third at Edwards, CA. The first opportunity would bring Endeavour back to KSC at 3:50 p.m. Central. There is another opportunity one orbit later, with a KSC landing at 5:22 p.m. Central. The third opportunity would see Endeavour land at Edwards at 6:48 p.m. Central time. The previous 20 shuttle missions have ended with landings at KSC. The last Edwards landing was STS-76 in March 1996. The primary concerns for a KSC landing are strong crosswinds and a low layer of clouds. Weather conditions at KSC are not expected to improve Wednesday or Thursday, and are expected to deteriorate at Edwards after Tuesday.
During 225 hours of operation during this mission, EarthKam took 2,715 images. Over 75 middle schools from around the world participated. The previous record number of images for a single flight was 670 on STS-86. The total number of images for this flight alone far exceeded the combined total from all previous flights.
The next status report will be issued Tuesday morning at approximately 6:00 a.m. CST.
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