Discovery’s heat shielding tiles. Image credit: NASA Click to enlarge
Space Shuttle Discovery?s heat shield is cleared for the return to Earth early Monday after mission managers decided today that a fourth spacewalk to deal with a puffed out thermal blanket is unnecessary. Wind tunnel tests overnight at NASA?s Ames Research Center in California showed little chance of any significant debris coming from the blanket at supersonic speeds. Further engineering analysis showed any debris released from the blanket was unlikely to hit structures on Discovery.
Thursday?s Mission Management Team decision put to rest the work that was being done to assess the health of the thermal protection system. The tiles and reinforced carbon-carbon on Discovery?s wings and nose were cleared earlier for entry.
Discovery and International Space Station crewmembers Thursday delivered a moving tribute to members of the Columbia crew and others, astronauts and cosmonauts, who lost their lives in the human exploration of space.
Each crewmember, in red shirt with Columbia’s STS-107 mission patch spoke during the tribute as the docked spacecraft flew over the southern Indian Ocean approaching a sunset. Station Science Officer John Phillips said: “To the crew of Columbia, as well as the crews of Challenger, Apollo 1, Soyuz 1 and 11, and to those who have courageously given so much, we now offer our enduring thanks.?
Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency repeated Phillips’ words in Japanese during the tribute, and Station Commander Sergei Krikalev spoke them in Russian. For the text of the tribute, please see:
After their successful Wednesday spacewalk, Discovery and Station crewmembers continued transfer activities, mostly packing the Multi-Purpose Logistic Module Raffaello with items from the Station. The pressurized cargo carrier is to be unberthed Friday from the Station’s Unity Node and returned to Discovery’s cargo bay for the trip back to Earth.
Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence attached the Station’s Canadarm2 to Raffaello in preparation for its unberthing.
Discovery Commander Eileen Collins, spacewalking Mission Specialist Steve Robinson and Mission Specialist Charlie Carmada talked with reporters from the Associated Press and NBC. A little later Collins and Noguchi spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese astronaut Mamoru Mohri and others, including Japanese students.
Crewmembers had an hour together for a common meal, then the seven Discovery astronauts had the afternoon off. The Station crew spent about two hours preparing equipment for the unberthing of Raffaello.
Original Source: NASA News Release