11 a.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
STS-116 MCC Status Report #24
Discovery’s astronauts will spend today preparing to return to Earth. They will test flight control surfaces, steering jets and other entry and landing systems while they stow equipment in Discovery’s cabin.
The crew, Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Bob Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Christer Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Thomas Reiter, were awakened at 6:17 a.m. CST to the song “The Road Less Traveled,” performed by Joe Sample. It was played for Higginbotham.
The crew began stowing gear away at 8:47 a.m., with all seven crewmembers participating off and on during the day.
Polansky, Oefelein and Curbeam, who serves as flight engineer, checked out flight control surfaces – the wing and body flaps and the rudder – beginning at 9:17 a.m. CST. At 10:27 a.m., they began a test firing of the shuttle's steering jets used during the early portions of descent from orbit.
Fuglesang and Higginbotham will deploy the third of three small satellites from Discovery's cargo bay today. The first two were successfully pushed into space Wednesday. The Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE) microsatellite will be deployed at 12:19 p.m. The satellite will gather information on atmospheric drag in low orbit.
After lunch, all seven crewmembers will talk with reporters from CNN and ABC, and with students at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai, Alaska.
The crew will review deorbit procedures at 2:32 p.m. CST. The KU-band antenna, used as the primary method to transmit television to the ground among other communications, will be stowed for landing at 7:17 p.m. CST. The crew begins a sleep period at 10:17 p.m.
Shuttle landing sites at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla.; Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and at White Sands Space Harbor, N.M. all will be active for a landing on Friday. The weather forecast currently calls for a chance of rain and low clouds at Kennedy; potential strong crosswinds at Edwards; and acceptable landing conditions at White Sands.
Discovery’s first landing opportunity Friday is to Kennedy, beginning with a deorbit engine firing at 1:49 p.m. CST with wheels touching down at 2:56 p.m. CST. The next opportunity is to Edwards with an engine firing to begin descent at 3:19 p.m. CST leading to a 4:27 p.m. touchdown. The first opportunity to land at White Sands begins with an engine firing at 3:20 p.m. CST leading to a touchdown in New Mexico at 4:32 p.m.
Opportunities also exist for Discovery to land at Edwards with a descent beginning with an engine firing at 4:54 p.m. CST leading to touchdown at 6 p.m. CST. A second opportunity to land at White Sands begins with an engine firing by the shuttle at 4:57 p.m. CST leading to a 6:02 p.m. touchdown.
The final landing opportunity available for Discovery on Friday is to Edwards, beginning with an engine firing at 6:32 p.m. CST leading to a touchdown at 7:36 p.m. CST.
Discovery is now about 2,200 statute miles ahead of the International Space Station. The distance increases by about 92 miles with each orbit.
Two station crew members, Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, are about half way through their six-month increment. The third crewmember, Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, came to the station aboard Discovery and is just beginning her six months on the station with the last half of Expedition 14 and the first half of Expedition 15.
The next STS-116 status report will be issued Thursday evening, or earlier, if events warrant.