Space Shuttle Discovery continues to close in on the International Space Station following Thursday morning’s flawless launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Docking is scheduled for 11:36 Friday night.
In preparation for that rendezvous and docking, Discovery’s crew was awakened at 6:42 p.m. Thursday to begin its first full day on orbit. The wakeup song from Mission Control was “Living The Life” by the Rockit Scientists, a group of training division instructors with whom shuttle Commander Jim Wetherbee plays drums from time to time.
After wakeup, the crew of four shuttle and three station expedition crewmembers got busy checking out systems and equipment to assist with mission objectives, including the robotic arm, the two spacesuits that will be worn for the first Extravehicular Activity (EVA), and the rendezvous tools to assist with the final hours of Discovery’s approach and docking to the station.
The STS-102 crew is made up of Wetherbee, Pilot Jim Kelly, Flight Engineer Paul Richards and Mission Specialist Andy Thomas. The Expedition Two crew consists of Russian Commander Yury Usachev, and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms.
Usachev, Voss and Helms, will replace Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev, who shortly will wrap up a 4-½ month stay aboard the station and return home aboard Discovery.
With a docking test behind it, the Expedition One crew turns its attention to final stowage in preparation for Discovery’s arrival.
After Friday’s late night docking, the astronauts will perform two space walks outside the ISS to continue the process of outfitting the Destiny research laboratory. The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, built by the Italian Space Agency, will be attached to the ISS late Sunday. It is filled with nearly five tons of equipment, including systems and science racks that will be transferred to Destiny.
The Expedition crews will exchange places on the ISS in a three-step fashion, beginning with Usachev and Gidzenko, who will swap places as Station and Shuttle crewmembers early Saturday within hours after docking.
As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Discovery trailed the station by about 7,000 miles, closing that distance at a rate of 700 miles each orbit of the Earth, or every 90 minutes. Simultaneously, the ISS is in good shape and ready to support the shuttle’s arrival Friday.
The next STS-102/International Space Station mission status report will be issued Friday at about 6 a.m.
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