With the exchange of two crew members and more than three tons of food, water, equipment and experiment samples complete, the main objectives of the STS-84 mission have been achieved and the astronauts aboard the Atlantis are turning their attention toward packing up for the return home.
Mission Specialist Jerry Linenger will return to Earth on Saturday after 122 days aboard the Mir Space Station, while fellow astronaut Mike Foale will remain on the orbiting Rusian facility for four and a half months of research. Atlantis and Mir are now just over 3,000 nautical miles apart and the distance is growing by about 23 n.m. each orbit.
Commander Charlie Precourt and his crew are scheduled to wake at 8:08 p.m. CDT this evening to begin what should be their final full day in space. Their activities this evening and early tomorrow will include stowing experiments and equipment and checking out orbiter systems used during the deorbit, entry and landing phases of the flight.
Precourt, along with Pilot Eileen Collins and Mission Specialist Carlos Noriega will perform a test of the Reaction Control System (RCS) jets that are used to maneuver the Shuttle in space. They will also check the Shuttle’s flight control systems to verify the various aerosurface hardware – the elevons, rudder and speed brake used to steer the Shuttle once it is back in Earth’s atmosphere – are in good working order.
Several crew members will help with the final stowage of Mir transfer items in the Spacehab and general cabin stowage in the middeck and will participate in an educational video being shot onboard. Elena Kondakova will stow the VHF radio gear that was used for ship-to-ship communications with Mir. Jean-Francois Clervoy and Kondakova will be responsible for teardown of Spacehab hardware in preparation for entry and landing. Ed Lu and Kondakova will stow Atlantis’ KU-band communications antenna, and Jerry Linenger, who has been in space since mid-January, will get a final exercise period in before his return to Earth.
Precourt, Collins, Kondakova and Linenger will pause from their return preparations early tomorrow morning to participate in an interview with the NBC "Today" Show and Connus Communications. The two interviews are scheduled for 4:38 a.m. CDT on Friday.
Atlantis and the STS-84 crew are scheduled to return to Kennedy Space Center on Saturday morning. The deorbit burn is planned for 5:51 a.m. CDT with a landing a little over an hour later at 6:53 a.m. CDT at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The long range weather forecast shows good weather for Atlantis’ return the Florida spaceport.
The next STS-84 status report will be issued at 5:00 a.m. on Friday.
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