Discovery’s seven-member crew Friday packed up and prepared for the trip home Saturday with a landing planned for mid-day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
If weather and spacecraft systems cooperate, Discovery will touch down at KSC at 11:04 a.m. Central time after having flown 134 orbits of the Earth. Deorbit ignition of the shuttle orbiter’s maneuvering engines will occur at 9:53 a.m. CST to slow the spacecraft’s forward velocity allowing it to drop back into the Earth’s atmosphere. Returning as an unpowered hypersonic glider, Discovery will follow a ground track taking it across Texas and Louisiana before it sweeps out over the Gulf of Mexico and into Florida.
Weather was predicted to be marginal, near the acceptable limits for crosswind and with scattered to broken clouds.
There are two landing opportunities to KSC Saturday and two to Edwards Air Force Base, California. Discovery has a second chance to land at KSC at 12:45 p.m. CST or could land at Edwards at either 12:35 p.m. or 2:17 p.m. Weather at Edwards was predicted to be good on Saturday but unacceptable on Sunday. KSC weather will be marginal both days. Earlier Friday, entry Capcom Susan Still told Discovery Commander Curt Brown that the plan would be to try both opportunities into KSC before considering the Edwards landing.
If Discovery lands Saturday, the seven astronauts will spend the night at the landing site before returning to Houston mid-day on Sunday to a welcome at Ellington Field.
Earlier today, Commander Curt Brown and Pilot Steve Lindsey spent a good part of their day checking out important spacecraft systems for entry and landing. One of the three auxiliary power units was turned on to provide hydraulic power for a test of the orbiter’s aerodynamic surfaces. The reaction control jets were test fired and the shuttle’s communications equipment tested. One of the RCS jets leaked during testing and was isolated. It will have no effect on entry and landing.
At the end of the crew day, the Ku-band antenna which provides television and high-rate data relay was stowed for the duration of the mission.
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