Discovery’s astronauts began the second half of their flight at 5:25 a.m. Central time this morning to the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s "If the House is A-Rockin," in honor of Mission Specialist Steve Robinson. Robinson is known as "Stevie Ray Robinson" by the other members of the astronaut band known as "Max Q". After enjoying a break in their schedule yesterday, the crew is focusing its attention on this afternoon’s retrieval of the Spartan solar physics satellite, which has spent the past two days studying the outer layers of the sun’s atmosphere. Retrieval is set for 2:45 p.m. Central time.
Rendezvous activities will begin when Commander Curt Brown fires Discovery’s engines to lower the shuttle, causing it to accelerate ahead of the satellite. Discovery will fly over the top of Spartan, then coast back to about 8 or 9 miles behind the satellite. Brown and Pilot Steve Lindsey then will maneuver Discovery into position as Robinson powers up Discovery’s 50-foot robot arm. Discovery will approach Spartan from beneath the sun probe to a distance of 35 feet. At that point, With the assistance of Scott Parazynski, Robinson will use the remote manipulator system to grapple Spartan to complete the first phase of its scientific mission. As Discovery closes in on Spartan today, the astronauts will test a device called the Video Guidance Sensor, a component of an automated docking system being prepared for use on the International Space Station. It is a laser system that provides precise measurements of how far away the shuttle is from a target and how fast it is moving toward or away from the target. Before grappling Spartan, Discovery will back away from the satellite to test the maximum range capability of the guidance system.
Spartan will be used again tomorrow for data collection, once again being unberthed from its payload bay cradle for a few hours so that cameras can be pointed at a series of targets on the spacecraft. Those cameras will test the Space Vision System that uses remote camera views to provide a robot arm operator with the ability to view areas that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Other crew members will continue work with several of the on-board science experiments. Japanese Space Agency Payload Specialist Chiaki Mukai and fellow Payload Specialist John Glenn, along with Parazynski and European Space Agency Mission Specialist Pedro Duque, will undergo another series of blood draws. They will then take small amounts of the amino acids alanine and histidine, which contain special tracer molecules, 12 hours before another blood draw. This research is part of the Protein Turnover Experiment that may benefit people on Earth who suffer from weakened muscles or loss of bone mass. Duque, Mukai and Glenn also will collect urine samples as part of the study.
Glenn will don electrodes and a data recorder known as a holter monitor, which will record his heart rhythm on orbit, as part of an investigation of heart rate variability during space flight. He also will be kept busy feeding bone cell cultures that are part of the OSTEO experiment, an evaluation of bone cell activity under microgravity conditions, and he will work with the Advanced Organic Separations (ADSEP) experiment, which provides the capability to separate and purify biological materials in microgravity..
Glenn and Duque will spend time with the Astroculture plant-growing experiment and with the MEPS (Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System) that studies the formation of anti-tumor capsules containing two kinds of drugs. Duque will collect video data and photograph samples from the Microgravity Glovebox (MGBX), which is used for investigations of colloids, or systems of fine particles suspended in fluid.
As part of the evaluation of sleep disturbances in astronauts, Mukai and Glenn will complete a questionnaire about their personal observations of the previous night’s sleep. They also will take a computerized battery of tests that measure reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination and other assessments.
Mukai will continue her work with the Japanese Vestibular Function Experiment Unit (VFEU), which holds two toadfish that are electronically monitored to determine the effect of gravitational changes on the inner ear’s balance system. She also will monitor the Astroculture-8 facility that is designed to provide a controlled environment in which to grow plants in the weightlessness of space.
Discovery is orbiting the Earth every 95 minutes at an altitude of about 341 statute miles with all systems operating in excellent condition.
The next STS-95 status report will be issued at approximately 6 p.m. Central time Tuesday.
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