Volume: 04, Issue: 22 07/07/2006 
From the left are astronauts Stephanie Wilson, Michael Fossum, Steven Lindsey, Piers Sellers, Mark Kelly, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter of Germany; and Lisa M. Nowak. Image credit: NASA.
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STS-121 Crew. Image credit: NASA.
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Space Shuttle Discovery launch. Image credit: NASA.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Commander Steve Lindsey
Pilot Mark Kelly
Mission Specialist Mike Fossum
Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak
Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson
Mission Specialist Piers Sellers
Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter

Space Shuttle Discovery

This is a Planetary Times Special Edition: Return to Flight STS-121. This issue will include an overview of the mission thus far and what is expected to come, followed by an in depth look into each of the astronauts on board. On Tuesday, July 4, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, the first space shuttle launch on Independence Day.

On Wednesday, July 5th, the astronauts of Space Shuttle Discovery examined their spaceship with the Orbiter Boom Sensor System and found no evidence of any damage from debris during the previous day’s ride to orbit. The several hours of inspection began just after 6:00 a.m. when Mission Specialists Lisa Nowak and Stephanie Wilson verified proper operation of the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm, then maneuvered it to lift the 50-foot-long OBSS from the starboard sill of the payload bay. Assisted by Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly and Mission Specialist Mike Fossum, Nowak, and Wilson began a slow and steady examination of the reinforced carbon-carbon panels along the leading edge of Discovery’s starboard wing just before 8:30 a.m., looking for any evidence of damage. The inspection using the Laser Dynamic Range Imager, Laser Camera System, and Intensified Television Camera on the end of the boom continued across the shuttle’s nose cap and port wing. After returning the OBSS to its berth, Nowak, Wilson, and Fossum spent an hour using the cameras on the shuttle robot arm to scan the outside of the crew cabin.

There is a crew of three aboard the International Space Station today for the first time in more than three years, and for the first time ever that crew includes an American, a Russian, and a European. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter of Germany was delivered as the newest member of ISS Expedition 13 just hours after Space Shuttle Discovery docked at the station’s Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 at 9:52 a.m. CDT, July 6, as the two ships flew above the south Pacific Ocean south of Pitcairn Island. Commander Steve Lindsey piloted Discovery’s approach to ISS, halting 600 feet directly below the station to perform the rendezvous pitch maneuver: the shuttle was commanded to do a nose-over-tail somersault so ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams could photograph the thermal protection system tiles on the orbiter’s underside. Imagery experts on the ground will study the high-resolution still pictures for evidence of any damage to the insulating tiles. Lindsey and his crew—Pilot Mark Kelly and Mission Specialists Mike Fossum, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Piers Sellers, and Reiter—greeted the station crewmembers when the hatches between the vehicles were opened.

After a successful docking to the International Space Station on July 6, the focus of the STS-121 shuttle mission now turns to unloading more than 7,000 lbs of cargo, continued shuttle inspections and preparations for the mission’s first spacewalk. The first task of the day will be the relocation of the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) from the shuttle payload bay onto the station’s Unity Module. Mission Specialists Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Mike Fossum and Piers Sellers will use the station robotic arm, Canadarm2, to maneuver the module, with help from pilot Mark Kelly. Once successfully mated to its temporary position on the station, shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey and new Expedition 13 Flight Engineer Thomas Reiter will conduct leak checks and enter the pressurized cargo container. Wilson will lead the transfer activities, which are scheduled to continue until July 13.

Later, using the shuttle robotic arm and boom system, Kelly, Nowak, and Wilson will conduct additional inspections of the orbiter’s thermal protection system. They will target a few specific areas on the shuttle’s nose cap that were missed on the initial scans, as well as two gap fillers that appear to be protruding from Discovery’s underside. They also intend to get a closer look at a piece of fabric near the shuttle nose.

Fossum and Sellers will make preparations for the July 8 planned spacewalk. They will configure tools and the U.S. airlock Quest for the spacewalk. They will repair the station's mobile transporter and test the capability of the robotic arm boom extension to carry spacewalkers. The results of that test will help engineers understand the feasibility of using the arm for thermal system inspections and repairs if needed on later flights. The newly augmented space station crew, including Flight Engineer Jeff Williams and Commander Pavel Vinogradov, will work closely with the shuttle crew, assisting with transfer activities and robotic arm operations.

The crew of space shuttle Discovery will continue to test new equipment and procedures that increase the safety of space shuttles during the STS-121 mission to the International Space Station. It also will perform maintenance on the space station and deliver more supplies and cargo for future station expansion. Two 6.5-hour spacewalks are scheduled for Sellers and Fossum on the fifth and seventh days of the mission. The first spacewalk will test the 50-foot robotic arm boom extension as a work platform. They will also begin maintenance of the station’s Mobile Transporter (MT) by safing or replacing a cable cutter unit to allow the station’s mobile robotic system to be translated in support of the second spacewalk. During the second spacewalk the crew will replace the detached cable on the MT, which was inadvertently cut, and its reel assembly. They will also install a spare part for the station’s thermal control system for future use.

During STS-121, mission managers expect to evaluate the high probability of shuttle consumables supporting an extra day for the mission. If an extra day is available, the crew and flight control team are training for a third spacewalk. The third spacewalk would include tasks to test techniques for inspecting and repairing the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon segments that protect the orbiter’s nose cone and wing leading edges.

Inspections of the orbiter’s heat shield with a 50-foot-long Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) are scheduled for before Discovery arrives at the station and again near the end of the mission, on the day before and the day of undocking from the space station.

Undocking is set for Flight Day 11. Discovery's crew will make final preparations for the return home on Flight Day 12, with landing at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility on Flight Day 13.

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