Mission Atlantis: Shuttle Crew Takes a Short Break

Mission Atlantis: Shuttle Crew Takes a Short Break
Expedition 13 and STS-115 crew members reunite onboard the International Space Station soon after docking. A smiling cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, Expedition 13 commander representing Russia's Federal Space Agency, floats into the scene, joining (from left) astronauts Jeffrey Williams, Expedition 13 flight engineer and NASA station science officer; Brent Jett, STS-115 commander, and Daniel Burbank, STS-115 mission specialist. (Image credit: NASA.)

Thisstory was updated at 11:45 a.m. EDT.

HOUSTON -After busy week of spacewalks and orbital construction, the six-astronaut crewof NASA's shuttle Atlantisrelaxed a bit Saturday at the International SpaceStation (ISS).

Atlantis' STS-115crew, commanded by veteranshuttle flyer Brent Jett, took a few hours off Saturday morning beforespeaking with reporters on Earth and hauling cargo between their Atlantisspacecraft and the ISS.

"We hopeyou enjoy the couple of free hours you have and enjoy your day," European SpaceAgency astronaut Hans Schlegel, serving as spacecraft communicator, toldSTS-115 mission specialist DanielBurbank as the crew awoke at 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT).

Missioncontrollers roused the Atlantis crew with Jimmy Buffet's "Twelve Volt Man," asong chosen for Burbank by his wife Ros and their children, Emily and Daniel.

"Thanksvery much for that great wake up music," Burbank told mission control. "It's agreat day up here in space and I really appreciate that. Thanks Houston."

Atlantis'six astronauts have a brief respite of sorts from the intense schedule theyfollowed to deliver the new, $372 million Port3/Port 4 (P3/P4) truss segments and new solar arrays to the ISS. Theastronauts launched on Sept. 9 and are now on Flight Day 8 of their mission.

"They dohave off duty time," John McCullough, lead ISS flight director for Atlantis'mission, told reporters Friday. "They're generally all winding down."

But today'srest is a short break from the challenging days ahead, McCullough added.

STS-115mission specialist HeidemarieStefanyshyn-Piper, for example, is in charge of ensuring that all vitalcargos to be transferred from Atlantis to the ISS reach their destinations. Sheis also making sure the unneeded items aboard the orbital laboratory are packedaway in Atlantis' middeck.

As ofFriday, about 60 percent of that cargo transfer was complete, mission managerssaid.

"We had halfa day off this morning, and it gave us the opportunity first of all to sleep inbecause we've been very, very busy," Stefanyshyn-Piper said in a space-to-groundlink between the joint ISS-Atlantis crew and reporters.

Stefanyshyn-Pipersaid ISS Expedition 13 flight engineer Jeffrey Williams, a NASA astronaut, alsogave the shuttle astronauts a tour of the station during their off-time.

"Jeff gaveus a real nice tour of the International Space Station, going into some of themodules that we normally don't go into like the Soyuz capsule, which was veryinteresting, and the rest of the time was spent taking pictures and getting anopportunity to look out the window," she said.

Meanwhile,other STS-115 astronauts such as Jett and pilot ChrisFerguson are looking ahead to Sunday, when Atlantis is set to undock at8:50 a.m. EDT (1250 GMT) from the ISS and circle the station in a maneuverknown as a flyaround. The STS-115 astronauts will leave the station's Expedition13 commander PavelVinogradov and flight engineers JeffreyWilliams and ThomasReiter with much different ISS - with its new solar wings - than when theyarrived.

On Monday, Burbank his crewmates are expected to again surveytheir shuttle's heat shield with a sensor laden inspection boom to seek outany damage from micrometeorites or orbital debris.

"I thinkbasically they're getting a break...a little breather," McCullough said. "Butthey also have some pretty good activities ahead of them."


Atlantis'STS-115 astronauts, with the aid of the three-astronaut ISS crew, have stagedthree spacewalks in four days outside the orbital laboratory to wire up thestation's newest addition with power, data and fluid lines.

Theexhaustive schedule paused a day to allow the astronauts time to unfurlnew solar arrays on Thursday. A radiator for the solar arrays deployedduring the mission's finalextravehicular activity (EVA) on Friday.

"There aresome milestones that they had definitely been looking forward to, solar arraydeploy, radiator deploy and knocking out all these EVAs successfully,"McCullough said. "So they can take a breather [Saturday], get comfortable andthen jump back into it."

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.