Crewmembers aboard Discovery and the International Space Station are spending their final hours together on a day that will see them bid farewell to one another, close hatches between the spacecraft, undock and separate to enable the new resident Expedition Three crew to begin a stay of about four months aboard the station.
The final farewells and hatch closing are scheduled for just before 7 a.m. Central time. Discovery's crewmembers, Commander Scott Horowitz, Pilot Rick Sturckow, and Mission Specialists Pat Forrester and Dan Barry, assisted by the returning Expedition Two crew, Commander Yury Usachev and Astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms, will undock Discovery at 9:52 a.m. as the two craft sail over the south Pacific due west of the southern coast of Chile.
With Sturckow at the controls, the shuttle will conduct a flyaround of the station, circling it 1¼ times before the shuttle's jets are fired at 11:12 a.m. to drop Discovery into a lower orbit for final separation from the station.
The seven crewmembers aboard Discovery were awakened at 3:40 a.m. by the sounds of "Brand New Day," played by Sting. The song was for Helms, requested by her family and friends. She and her Expedition Two crewmates are wrapping up five and a half months on orbit.
Parked in Discovery's cargo bay is Leonardo, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module that brought 7,300 pounds of material to the station, including equipment, supplies and two scientific racks. It is returning to Earth with almost 2 tons of unneeded equipment from the station, trash and personal effects of the Expedition Two crew.
Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin are beginning a science-intensive increment that is scheduled to end with their replacement by the Expedition Four crew late this year.
Also on today's schedule for Discovery's crewmembers after undocking is the deployment of a small science satellite called Simplesat, designed to evaluate the use of inexpensive commercially available hardware in space. It is designed to demonstrate GPS attitude control and pointing in free flight. It will be spring-ejected from a canister at the rear of the Shuttle's cargo bay.
The Russians are all set to launch an unmanned Progress resupply craft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow at 4:24 a.m. Central time. It is the fifth Progress to be launched to the station, and is scheduled to dock a little after 5 a.m. on Thursday, the day after the current Progress attached to the ISS is undocked from the rear of the Zvezda Service Module to burn up in the atmosphere with its load of trash.
Discovery and the ISS are circling the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 246 statute miles. All systems are functioning well. The next mission status report will be issued at around 6 p.m., or earlier, if events warrant.
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