Astronauts will fire the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s large orbital maneuvering thrusters twice today as they make their way toward the International Space Station, where three fellow space travelers await their Saturday arrival.
Currently flying approximately 8,000 statute miles (12,875 kilometers) behind and below the ISS, Endeavour’s crew will spend much of today preparing for Saturday afternoon’s docking with the station.
Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Mike Bloomfield and Mission Specialists Joe Tanner, Marc Garneau and Carlos Noriega will begin checking out the systems they will use to deliver the station’s first set of U.S. solar arrays. They will check out the Shuttle’s robotic arm and space vision system to ensure they are working properly, and inspect the spacesuits and tools that Tanner and Noriega will use over the course of three scheduled space walks.
Jett and Bloomfield will execute rendezvous burns about 12:41 p.m., and 9:15 p.m. to bring Endeavour into the proper alignment with the ISS and close the gap between the two spacecraft, still half a world away from each other. The first burn went flawlessly a little before 1 a.m. Friday.
Aboard the space station, Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev continued preparations for the arrival of Endeavour’s crew, undocking a Progress supply ship from the Zarya module to make room for Endeavour at a nearby Unity module docking port. The supply ship – now full of refuse and packing materials from the crew’s first month on orbit – was undocked at 10:20 a.m. CST and moved to a parking orbit some 2,500 kilometers (1,554 miles) away. Over the next several weeks, Mission managers will be discussing whether or not to redock the Progress to the ISS late in December.
Endeavour’s docking with the station remains on schedule for 2 p.m. CST Saturday. After Garneau and Bloomfield use the Shuttle’s robot arm to attach the new solar arrays to the connecting framework delivered on STS-92, Noriega and Tanner will conduct three space walks making connections and helping activate the new sun-tracking, power generating panels of the 90-foot tall, 240-foot wide solar array structure.
The crew’s first full day in orbit began with a wake-up call from Mission Control at 10:06 a.m. Friday to the sounds of “Stardust” by Willie Nelson, played for Canadian Space Agency astronaut Garneau. The next mission status report will be issued at 10 p.m. Friday or sooner if events warrant.
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