HOUSTON - Afterdelivering tons of new equipment and, supplies and fresh food to theInternational Space Station (ISS), the crew of the space shuttle Discoverypacked up their cargo pod and returned it to the shuttle's payload bay for thetrip back to Earth.
Discoveryastronaut Wendy Lawrence, an STS-114 mission specialist, and pilot James Kelly deftlyplaced the Italian-built Raffaello cargomodule back into its berth aboard the shuttle after a week of unpackingsupplies for the ISS and stowing trash, unneeded equipment and the personaleffects left onboard the station by previous crewmembers.
The movesets the stage for Discovery's departure from the ISS, which is scheduled to beginSaturday at 3:22 a.m. EDT (0722 GMT). The shuttle and its STS-114 crew arescheduled to land at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Aug. 8.
Altogether,Discovery hauled about six tons (12,107 pounds) of new equipment up to theInternational Space Station (ISS), though only 3,768 pounds were tucked awayonboard Raffaello, which is one of four Italian-built Multi-Purpose LogisticsModules used to ferry supplies to the station aboard U.S. shuttles. Discoveryalso carried about 1,394 pounds of cargo earmarked for the ISS in its middeck.The rest of the cargo, a new controlmoment gyroscope, spareparts platform and their related cables,were installed outside the ISS over the course of three spacewalks.
Discoveryis the first shuttle to resupply the ISS since the Endeavour orbiter docked atthe station on Nov. 25, 2002. The loss of the Columbia orbiter and itsseven-astronaut crew on Feb. 1, 2003 prompted NASA to ground its threeremaining shuttles and spend two and half years redesigning shuttle externaltanks and developing new tools for orbiter safety. Columbia was brought down bya 1.67-pound piece of external tank foam that pulled free during launch anddamaged the orbiter's heat shield.
In theinterim, only Russian Progress cargo ships and Soyuz spacecraft delivered freshcrews and supplies to the ISS.
After Discovery'slaunch, at least three pieces of external tank foam - the largest weighingabout a pound - fell from the orbiter's external tank, disappointing theshuttle's astronauts and mission managers who had hoped they had solve d theproblem. Shuttle officials grounded future launches until they understand andsolve the new foam loss problem.
To preparefor another potential delay between shuttle resupply flight to the ISS, STS-114mission controllers gave Discovery and the space station crew an extra day ofdocked operations to allow more time to collect spare parts and other itemsaround the shuttle to leave onboard the orbital laboratory.
Laptopcomputers, additional water, spare exercise equipment parts and tools wereamong the added few hundred pounds that Discovery's crew pulled from
"The most importantthing, I think, are the laptop computers," said Mark Ferring, lead ISS flightdirector during the STS-114 mission, earlier this week. "We're going to stealmost of those computers that the shuttle has."
Laptopcomputers are the sole display and control devices aboard the ISS, and some ofthe station machines have experienced screen problems, station officials havesaid.
Batteries,spacewalk and cabin tools and water were also on the docket for the additionaltransfer, Ferring said.
Latertoday, Discovery astronauts will wield both the station and shuttle roboticarms to hand off the orbiter's 50-foot (15-meter) inspection boom for stowageinside the payload bay.
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