9:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
STS-128 MCC Status Report #23
HOUSTON – The population aboard the International Space Station is back to six following the departure of the space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew at 2:26 p.m. CDT today.

Pilot Kevin Ford guided Discovery through a full fly-around of the orbiting outpost, using only the primary reaction control system steering jets. The smaller vernier jets were disabled before the shuttle docked to the station because of a small leak in one jet.

The shuttle crew’s newest member, Mission Specialist Tim Kopra, is returning to Earth after 44 days as a member of the station’s Expedition 20 crew, while his replacement, Nicole Stott, begins a three-month stay in orbit.

After delivering 7.5 tons of scientific equipment, food and other supplies for use by the station crew, the shuttle is returning home with 2.5 tons of specimens, used equipment and trash. The Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module contains 2,412 pounds of return cargo, and the used ammonia tank assembly and European Technology Exposure Facility account for another 1,950 pounds in the unpressurized cargo bay. Discovery’s middeck also is carrying 861 pounds of cargo home to Earth.

Discovery’s crew is now in the process of examining its heat shield one last time using the shuttle’s robotic arm, its 50-foot-long extension boom and sophisticated sensors. Once complete, the astronauts will stow both the boom and Canadarm back in the payload bay.

The space station crew will enjoy a day off tomorrow to rest up after the busy assembly mission. They’ll also prepare for the arrival of the next cargo delivery vehicle, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch from Tanegashima, Japan, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The shuttle crew is due to go to sleep about 2 a.m. Wednesday. The next shuttle status report will be issued after the crew awakens at 9:59 a.m., or earlier if events warrant.

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