Endeavour’s astronauts were awakened this morning to Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” beginning what should be their final day in orbit as they prepare for a landing this evening at the Kennedy Space Center.
Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Mike Bloomfield and Mission Specialists Carlos Noriega, Marc Garneau and Joe Tanner will move into their formal de-orbit preparation timeline about noon. For the first landing opportunity of the day, Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain would give the crew a “go / no go” call on closing Endeavour’s payload bay doors about 1 p.m.
There are two landing opportunities in Florida today, the first beginning with an orbital maneuvering system engine firing at 3:57 p.m. CST, and culminating in a landing on Shuttle Landing Facility runway 15 at 5:04 p.m. CST (6:04 p.m. EST). In the event weather precludes a landing on that first opportunity, a second landing opportunity exists one orbit later with a de-orbit burn at 5:35 p.m. CST, resulting in a 6:40 p.m. (7:40 p.m. EST) landing at the Kennedy Space Center. If that second opportunity is selected, residents along the Gulf of Mexico may have a good view of Endeavour’s plasma trail as it blazes through the atmosphere on its way home to Florida.
Preliminary weather forecasts, while basically favorable for landing, call for a slight chance of showers in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility today. Landing opportunities also are available at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and flight controllers could decide to send Endeavour there if conditions warrant. Edwards has three landing opportunities at 6:35 p.m., 8:09 p.m. and 9:46 p.m. CST.
Aboard the International Space Station, now about 1,500 miles behind Endeavour, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev are taking advantage of the additional space offered by the Unity module.
With additional power provided by the station’s new solar arrays -- delivered and installed by Endeavour’s crew – the station crew now has continuous access to that module. Early this morning, Shepherd provided flight controllers with views of a cluttered module, and asked for the crew to have time for some housekeeping on Tuesday. Shepherd indicated he had elected to spend much of Monday setting up a new resistance exercise device in Unity, and looked forward to opening the hatch in the docking port vacated by Endeavour so that it can be used as closet space.
The next STS-97 status report will be issued after landing, or as mission events warrant.
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