Leaving behind a better-than-new Hubble Space Telescope, the crew of Columbia had a well-deserved break today after a week spent overhauling and enhancing the orbiting observatory.
Although it will be at least several weeks before all of the scientific equipment installed by Columbia's crew is tested, space telescope controllers report that all functional checks of Hubble continue to be fully successful.
The crew is now beginning to turn their attention to the trip home, with a landing by Columbia planned for 3:32 a.m. CST Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The weather forecast for landing calls for generally acceptable conditions with only a slight chance of rain showers developing offshore.
Early this morning, the astronauts aboard Columbia made a long-distance call to their fellow space fliers, the Expedition Four crew of Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Dan Bursch and Carl Walz, now in their fourth month in orbit aboard the International Space Station. With the aid of Mission Control, the two spacecraft crews conversed as Columbia flew 350 statute miles above the Atlantic Ocean and the station flew 240 miles above the South Pacific.
Columbia's crew begins a sleep period at 11:22 a.m. CST and will awaken for what is planned to be their final full day in orbit at 7:22 p.m. CST. That day will be devoted to the standard shuttle checkouts conducted prior to landing, testing the flight controls and steering jets needed for the return to Earth.
Columbia remains in good condition, with no systems problems of concern to flight controllers. Tuesday's primary landing opportunity to Kennedy would begin with a deorbit engine firing by Columbia at 2:25 a.m. CST leading to the 3:32 a.m. CST touchdown. A second landing opportunity also is available for Kennedy on Tuesday, beginning with an engine firing at 4:07 a.m. CST leading to a touchdown at 5:13 a.m. CST.
Although opportunities do exist for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Ca., shuttle managers plan to focus Tuesday only on a landing in Florida.
The Johnson Space Center newsroom closed at 11 a.m. CST today and will reopen at 7 p.m. CST. The next mission status report will be issued this evening or as events warrant.
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