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Into the Orbiter
The Multifunction Electronics Display System, also known as the glass cockpitAnyone entering Discovery's crew compartment must first go through a series of preparations, from emptying pockets and tethering eyeglasses to putting on a "cleanroom suit" and booties over regular clothes. These precautions keep the area extra-clean and prevent anything from getting loose inside, even objects as tiny as a stray hair. In the zero-gravity environment, loose items can impede astronauts' work, get caught in the orbiter's ventilation system or interfere with other orbiter systems.

The Multifunction Electronics Display System, or "glass cockpit," replaced Discovery's original monochrome screens and tape meters.

Immediately below the flight deck is the middeck, where astronauts sleep, eat, exercise or work with small payloads. But inside the middeck today, suited technicians are working on wiring.

In the cockpit, or "flight deck," a series of flat-panel displays called the Multifunction Electronics Display System replaced Discovery's original monochrome screens and tape meters. Nicknamed the "glass cockpit," this flexible system displays one of several instrument or status displays on any screen.

Technicians working inside the middeck"It's a state of the art system," said Laurel Patrick, NASA digital processing system engineer. "It keeps the crew better informed, increases redundancy, and improves in-flight maintenance and problem management. It even weighs less and consumes less power."

Technicians working inside Discovery's middeck are visible through the open hatch to the payload bay.

Discovery is the third orbiter upgraded with the glass cockpit. Only Endeavour, the youngest of the orbiters, is still awaiting that improvement.

A hatch leads from the middeck into the payload bay, where school bus-sized payloads can travel into space. The silvery radiator panels, which reflect excess heat out of the payload bay in orbit, were removed and the payload bay doors were stripped down to the bare frame. A variety of tests and inspections were performed, from work on the insulating blankets that line the bay to testing the latches on the doors. Special equipment was needed to open the payload bay doors on Earth, since they are designed to operate in space.

A worker inside the payload bayA worker in the Orbiter Processing Facility checks part of the payload bay on Discovery.

Another important payload bay component -- the airlock, with the Orbiter Docking System attached -- is in a nearby workstand. The Russian Space Agency, which designed and still owns the Orbiter Docking System, sent representatives to KSC to perform maintenance and review of the system. During space missions, the airlock is the crew's gateway to the International Space Station.

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+ Part 1: My Shuttle's in the Shop
+ Part 3: From Nose Cap to Body Flap
Anna Heiney
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center