With its systems checked out in excellent shape, Space Shuttle Discovery with its seven-person crew that includes the Expedition Two crew, is set to return home at 11:46 a.m. Central time to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, wrapping up a five and a half month stay on the International Space Station. A second landing opportunity is available an hour and a half later at 1:23 p.m. CDT.
Leading the station now by more than a thousand miles, Discovery’s aero surfaces and maneuvering engines were tested early today by the shuttle’s Commander Scott Horowitz and Pilot Rick Sturckow while the remaining crewmembers busily prepared the cabin for the high-speed reentry.
Late in the day, the reclining seats that will be occupied by Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev, and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms were put into position on the orbiter’s middeck. The reclined position has been proven to be the most comfortable method of return to Earth from space by long duration crewmembers.
Weather forecasters are predicting favorable conditions in Central Florida for Discovery’s return to Earth, prompting mission managers to forego calling up support at the backup landing site in California.
To prepare for deorbit and landing activities, the shuttle crew will awaken at 3:10 a.m. Wednesday and start deorbit preparations about 6:45 a.m. The payload bay doors are to be closed at about 8 a.m. with the deorbit firing of the twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines on the tail of Discovery targeted for 10:37 a.m.
While Discovery was readied for the trip home, the Expedition Three crew of Frank Culbertson, Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin activated one of the two scientific racks delivered by Discovery’s crew. The crew also prepared for the undocking of a Progress supply vehicle docked to the station since late May. The undocking is set for 1:05 a.m. Wednesday to make room for the next Progress already on its way following launch at 4:24 a.m. today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As was its four predecessors, the 5 Progress is loaded with fuel, food and other equipment for use by the Expedition Three crew.
The launch pad now is free for the next launch of a Soyuz Sept. 15 delivering the Russian Docking Compartment to the station.
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