As their seventh day in space draws to a close this morning, the astronauts aboard Atlantis have virtually completed their maintenance work on the International Space Station, installing equipment that is planned to leave the space outpost in flawless condition.
Late Wednesday, Astronauts Susan Helms and Jim Voss along with Cosmonaut Yury Usachev completed the installation of a fourth and final fresh battery in the station. Station flight controllers in Russia have completed charging two of the newly installed batteries and they are operating perfectly. The third new battery is currently undergoing a 20-hour charging process, although controllers did note some apparently irregular readings in data during the early portions of the charging activity. However, after further analysis, controllers now believe the irregular information was likely a ground communications problem and that the battery is in excellent condition. Charging of the fourth new battery will begin later today and be completed before Atlantis undocks from the station on Friday.
Later, Voss and Williams installed several new storage compartments behind panels in the Zarya module. Helms and Usachev also installed a new Radio Telemetry System in the module, a memory unit that can store data onboard when the station is not in communications with the ground. The new memory unit replaces one that was nearing the end of its planned operational lifetime.
Commander Jim Halsell and Pilot Scott Horowitz fired Atlantis' steering jets to perform the second part of a three-day maneuver that is raising the station's orbit. Atlantis' jets were fired 27 times over the course of almost an hour to raise the Atlantis-station complex's average altitude by about nine miles. The third and final orbit-raising activity is planned tonight and will leave the station about 27 miles higher than when Atlantis arrived, in an optimum orbit to await the launch of a station living quarters module by Russia in July.
The crew has transferred more than a ton of gear -- ranging from sewing kits to clothing -- to the station to await use by the first resident crew. Among the items transferred this morning were a stationary bicycle ergometer as well as four 12-gallon bags of drinking water. Tonight, the crew will wrap up the transfer of equipment to the station with plans in place to unload a total of more than 3,000 pounds of gear by the time Atlantis leaves. Halsell, Horowitz and Mary Ellen Weber will take a brief break from their activities at 9:11 p.m. CDT for an interview by CBS News, Fox News and KTBS-TV of Shreveport, LA.
The crew will begin a sleep period at 7:11 a.m. CDT and awaken at 3:11 p.m. to begin the eighth day of the mission. Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the station at 6:07 p.m. CDT Friday and land at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 1:18 a.m. CDT Monday.
The Atlantis-International Space Station complex is now in an orbit with an altitude of about 225 miles, circling Earth every 91 minutes. The next mission status report will be issued at 7 p.m. CDT.
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