All of Discovery’s systems are checked out for landing, with Commander Jim Wetherbee and his team ready to escort home the first International Space Station expedition crew late Tuesday.
Landing is scheduled for 11:56 p.m. CST Tuesday (12:56 a.m. EST Wednesday), but Entry Flight Director Wayne Hale and his team are carefully watching weather conditions at the primary landing site. With low clouds, possible rain and gusty crosswinds expected at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Hale decided to activate support at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Wednesday when conditions are expected to be at their best this week.
The first landing opportunity begins with a deorbit burn on Orbit 200 at 10:50 p.m. CST Tuesday and ends with landing at 11:56 p.m. in Florida. The second opportunity on Orbit 201 starts with an engine firing at 12:26 a.m. CST Wednesday and ends with landing in Florida at 1:31 a.m. The third chance calls for an Orbit 202 deorbit burn at 1:57 a.m. CST Wednesday and landing at Edwards at 3:02 a.m. The final prospect of the crew day begins with an engine firing at 3:33 a.m. CST Wednesday and ends with a California landing at 4:38 a.m.
Wetherbee and the shuttle crew – Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialists Andy Thomas and Paul Richards – spent the day packing for the trip home and completing checks of the steering jets and flight controls the shuttle will use. They also fired Discovery’s orbital maneuvering system engines to adjust the shuttle's orbit and optimize landing opportunities, testing the braking rockets they use to begin re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
ISS Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd and crewmates Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev took time out from their packing to answer questions posed by three television news reporters. Tonight, the returning Expedition One crew members will set up the reclining seats to help ease the stress of landing on their bodies, which have not experienced gravity for four and a half months.
Meanwhile, the Expedition Two crew aboard the station – Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Susan Helms and Jim Voss – began settling into their new home and shift schedule. Awakening at midnight Tuesday, they began their daily exercise regimen and set up the station toilet for use by its first female crew member.
The crew aboard Discovery is scheduled to begin its sleep shift at 7:42 a.m. CST and wake up to begin final landing preparations at 3:42 p.m. Bedtime for the station crew is 3:30 p.m. CST.
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