STS-116 Mission Updates: Part 4

Discovery crew safely backon Earth
22 December 2006 7:15 p.m. EST

STS-116 commander Mark Polansky,pilot Bill Oefelein, NASA mission specialists Robert Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Joan Higginbotham, and Swedish astronautChrister Fuglesang haveexited shuttle Discovery, conducted the traditional "walkaround"of the orbiter and made a few brief remarks at the microphone at Florida's KennedySpace Center.

The returning member of the ISS Expedition 14 crew, flightengineer Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency, remained within theair-conditioned confines of the crew transport vehicle after exiting the orbiterto slowly acclimate his body to gravity after almost 6 months of weightlessness.

Discovery safely touched down at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232GMT), just two minutes after sunset, on its primary landing strip, runway 15 atthe Shuttle Landing Facility, following a successful assembly mission to theInternational Space Station. Discovery completed 204 orbits of the earth,traveling 5,330,000 miles during its voyage of 12 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes.

After landing, Polansky toldMission Control in Houston, "Seven thrilled people right here. We're justreally proud of the entire NASA team that put this together. Thank you ... and Ithink it's going to be a great holiday."

The seven crew members will be driven back to theastronaut quarters for medical tests and preliminary de-briefings. They willthen return home to the Johnson Space Centerin Houston onSaturday for a welcome home ceremony.

Mission managers waved-off Discovery'sfirst Florida landing opportunity and theshuttle seemed destined for a western U.S.landing when weather conditions along the SpaceCoast dramatically improved - justmoments before the scheduled de-orbit burn - allowing the spaceplane'sreturn to the Kennedy Space Center,just in time for the holidays. Ironically, a previously-monitored band of rain showersmade an appearance over the shuttle runway, drizzling just as the astronautsbegan the post-landing inspection of their spacecraft.

The next mission to the International Space Station willbe STS-117 with shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for launch no-earlier-than March16, 2007.

- Roger Guillemette

 

 

Shuttle Discovery landssafely in Florida

22 December 2006 5:32 p.m.EST

Shuttle Discovery has safelylanded at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, ending a 13-day missionto the International Space Station.

Discovery touched down at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), justtwo minutes after sunset, on runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, whereweather conditions took a dramatic turn for-the-better to allow the spaceplane's return to Florida.

Commander Mark Polansky and pilotBill Oefelein guided the orbiter on its fiery plungethrough the atmosphere and hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth, thenprecisely executed a series of turns and banking maneuvers that slowed thevehicle for its powerless landing on the 3-mile long paved runway at the Kennedy Space Center.

A convoy of landing support vehicles is now approachingthe orbiter to 'safe' the vehicle following landing and allow the astronauts toexit.

- Roger Guillemette

Discovery headed for Florida homecoming
22 December 2006 5:00 p.m. EST

 

Shuttle Discovery has ignited itsbraking rockets and started a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere and along, gliding descent to the Kennedy Space Center'sShuttle Landing Facility to end its 13-day mission to the International SpaceStation. The shuttle will land at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), just two minutesafter sunset.

Discovery completed a 3-minute, 46-secondfiring of its twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines that began at 4:26 p.m.EST to reduce the shuttle's velocity sufficiently to drop it out of orbit andbegin an hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth.  Remaining propellant onboardthe vehicle has been dumped through the forward thrusters located in Discovery'snose.

The Orbiter is now encountering theupper fringes of the atmosphere at about 400,000 feet in altitude, to be followedby a series of turns and banking maneuvers to slow the vehicle for its powerlesstouchdown on the Shuttle Landing Facility's 3-mile long northwest-to-southeast runway15. Commander Mark Polansky and Pilot Bill Oefelein will guide Discovery through a 330-degree leftoverhead turn above the Kennedy Space Centerto align the spacecraft with the runway - twin sonic booms will announce the arrivalof the 225,000-pound orbiter.

A convoy of landing support vehicles ismaking its way to the landing strip to await Discovery's touchdown.

Weather conditions along Florida's Space Coast took a dramaticturn for the better - just moments before the scheduled de-orbit burn - asflight controllers gained confidence that a band of approaching showers woulddissipate before the orbiter's scheduled approach and landing. Forecastconditions are few clouds at 6,000 feet, scattered at 14,000 feet, overcast at25,000 feet - all within allowable limits - with winds forecast at 16 knots, peakingat 22 knots, right down runway 15.

 

- Roger Guillemette

Space Shuttle DiscoveryBound for FloridaLanding
22 December 2006 4:20 p.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's space shuttle Discoveryis bound for Earth for a Floridalanding and will fire its engines to leave orbit.

Themaneuver will come at 4:26 p.m. EST (2126 GMT) after back and forth bouncesbetween landing option choices by Mission Control.

"You area good man, Hawk," Discovery's STS-116 commander Mark Polanskytold NASA astronaut Ken Ham, who told the shuttle crew the news from MissionControl.

Discovery'sSTS-116 crew, commanded by veteran astronaut Mark Polansky, are now due to land at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232GMT) as the Sun sets.                             

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

- Tariq Malik

NASA Eyes Florida Landing, CaliforniaWinds Arise Anew
22 December 2006 4:01 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA is again taking acloser look at a Floridalanding for its seven Discovery shuttle astronauts.

Flightcontrollers had primed Discovery's STS-116 crew for a landing at California's Edwards AirForce Base, but high winds there appeared to gain strength after initiallysubsiding.

NowDiscovery will aim for Kennedy Space Center,and must fire its engines no later than 4:26 p.m. EST (2126 GMT) in order toland at NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility here.

This willbe NASA's final window to land at KSC, before having to select between Edwardsand White SandsSpace Harborin New Mexico.NASA has only landed once in White Sands during STS-3 aboard Columbia in 1982.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

- Tariq Malik

NASA Keeps Options Openfor Shuttle Landing
22 December 2006 3:49 p.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. - NASA has sent preliminary data to astronauts aboard the space shuttleDiscovery for a possible landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, butremains optimistic that the weather will ease above its Kennedy Space Centerhere.

"Believeit or not, we're still debating landing sites," NASA astronaut Ken Ham toldDiscovery's crew from Mission Control.

Discoveryactually has three possible landing sites ahead:

n      Edwards AirForce Base at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT)

n      White SandsSpace Harborin New Mexicoat 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT)

n      Kennedy SpaceCenter in Florida at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT).

NASA ishoping to set the orbiter down at either Edwards or, more optimistically, KSC.

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

 

- Tariq Malik

Weather Appears to Easefor Shuttle Landing
22 December 2006 3:20 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - Mission Control has given the seven astronauts aboard theDiscovery orbiter the go ahead to begin drinking down 32 ounces of fluid toreplenish those lost during their 13-day mission.

Meanwhile,NASA astronaut Ken Ham, serving as spacecraft communicator, has alerted STS-116commander Mark Polansky that high winds blowing atEdwards Air Force Base -- Discovery's next available port of call -- appear tobe easing.

The cloudand rain threat here at NASA's Kennedy Space Centeralso appears to be dropping slightly, improving the conditions for a potentialshuttle landing, Ham said.

If NASAopts for an Edwards landing, Discovery will fire its engines to leave orbit at4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT) for a touchdown of about 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT).

Shouldthe space agency choose KSC, the shuttle will fire its engines at 4:26 p.m. EST(2126  GMT).

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

Astronauts Prepare forSecond Landing Attempt
22 December 2006 3:14 p.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. - Theastronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery are preparing for their secondlanding attempt of the day as the near the end of their planned 13-day mission.

Discovery'sSTS-116 crew is due to land no earlier than 5:27 p.m. EST (2257 GMT), with thefirst opportunity opening at Edwards Air Force Base in California, then anotherat White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

While theweather looks bleak at NASA's Kennedy Space Center,Discovery does have a landing window here at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT), whichwould coincide with sunset here at the seaside spaceport.

To aimfor Edwards, Discovery commander Mark Polansky mustfire the orbiter's engines at about 4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT) to brake the spacecraft and send on an Earthward path.

NASAastronaut Dom Gorie is currently flying a series ofapproaches at Edwards Air Force Base to measure its crosswind levels - the onlyconcern that the backup shuttle landing site. Gorieis piloting a Shuttle Training Aircraft that mimics an orbiter's flightcharacteristics.

Here atKSC, NASA's chief astronaut Steven Lindsey - who last commanded Discoveryduring NASA's STS-121 mission in July - is also aboard a Shuttle TrainingAircraft to continuously monitor the weather for a possible second landingattempt.

At White Sands Space Harbor,astronaut Brent Jett - who led NASA's STS-115 mission immediately before thecurrent spaceflight - is monitoring conditions there, where weather appearsoptimal.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Discovery WavedOff First Landing Attempt
22 December 2006 2:11 p.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. -Unstable weather and incoming rain has forced NASA to wave off the firstlanding attempt for the space shuttle Discovery today.

The nextlanding opportunity is at 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT) at Edwards Air Force Base inCalifornia.

NASAastronaut Ken Ham in Mission Control told Discovery's STS-116 crew that rainwas expected within 30 miles of their landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center,which is prohibited for landing under the agency's flight rules.

A similarweather outlook is expected during Discovery's second -- and last -- KSClanding opportunity of the day at 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT).

A WhiteSands landing, which has a clear weather outlook, is also available at about5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT).

NASA's Mission ControlCenter in Houstontold Discovery's STS-116 crewthat weatherforecasts are looking grimmer for their primary landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Weather Worsens forShuttle's FloridaLanding Site
22 December 2006 1:48 p.m. EST

                               

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA astronaut Ken Ham atNASA's Mission ControlCenter in Houstontold Discovery's STS-116 crewthat weatherforecasts are looking grimmer for their primary landing site here at the Kennedy Space Center.

"The newword for Florida is unstable," Ham told Discovery's STS-116commander Mark Polansky."The official forecast has been degraded to showers within 30 [miles]...however,we like to keep the hope alive."

NASAflight rules prohibit shuttle landings at KSC with rain showers within a30-mile perimeter of the target runway.

Ham saidflight controllers are not yet waving the crew off their first landing attempt,but have asked them to delay their "fluid loading" - in which they drink largeamounts of fluid to prepare for their return to gravity.

For fluidloading, each astronaut is usually tasked with gulping down about 40 ounces ofliquid, or eight ounces every 15 minutes, and taking salt pills to recover fromthe effects of weightlessness.

"Thanksfor keeping us in the loop," Polansky replied.

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Astronauts Suit Up forEarth Return
22 December 2006 1:20 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - The seven astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are donningtheir bright orange launch and entry suits in preparation for today's plannedlanding here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery'sSTS-116 commander Mark Polansky is already clad in his partially pressurizedentry suit and has taken his seat in the front left of the orbiter's flightdeck.

Six ofDiscovery's seven-astronaut crew will return to Earth while sitting in anupright position. European Space Agency astronaut ThomasReiter, however, is returning from a half-year stay aboard the International SpaceStation (ISS).

Reiterwill ride back to Earth in a special recumbent seat designed to ease his returnto gravity after a long-duration spaceflight.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle LandingPreparations Continue for Discovery Crew
22 December 2006 1:05 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - Less than three hoursseparate NASA's shuttle Discovery astronauts from an afternoon landing here atthe Kennedy Space Center,but only if the weather cooperates.

Discovery'sSTS-116 crew is due to land at 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT). NASA's chief astronautSteve Lindsey is at the controls of one of the space agency's Shuttle TrainingAircraft and will begin flying a series of runway approaches here at theShuttle Landing Facility to evaluate conditions for today's planned descent.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

 

Discovery Shuttle's Payload Bay Doors Closed
22 December 2006 12:40 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- Both of Discovery's 60-foot payload bay doors are now closed, as the orbiteris prepared for today's landing attempts.

Weatherremains at a concern, though the shuttle is still targetedto land here at NASA's Kennedy Space Centerat 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT).

A microswitch error is thought to have caused the initialindication that the orbiter's starboard payload bay door was not latchedproperly, Mission Control said.

Click herefor SPACE.com's landingpreview of Discovery's STS-116 mission to continue assembly of theInternational Space Station (ISS).

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

 

Astronauts to Close Payload Bay Doors
22 December 2006 12:25 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- The starboard payload bay door aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery is folded intoits closed position, and astronauts are checking to ensure it is properlybattened down.

Closingthe shuttle's two payload bay doors, which are lined with radiators used whilein orbit, is one of milestones leading up today's planned landing.

Discoveryremains scheduled to land here at the KennedySpace Centerat 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT), with backup landing sites available at California's Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands Space Harborin New Mexico.

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission landing using SPACE.com'sNASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

Shuttle's Return to be a'Dynamic Day,' Commander Says
22 December 2006 11:25 a.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. - As NASA's space shuttle Discovery prepares to return to Earth today,little has changed in terms of its weather chances, astronaut Ken Ham, at thespace agency's Mission Control, has told the orbiter's STS-116 crew.

Ham,serving as spacecraft communicatory, told Discovery commander Mark Polansky that winds are a bit higher than expected at theorbiter's Kennedy Space Centertarget, but landing there is still possibly despite the threat of nearby rainshowers and low clouds."

"Copy," Polansky said. "Copy," Polanskysaid. "It's going to be a dynamic day for you guys."

Discoveryis due to land here at the Kennedy Space Centerat 3:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT), with backup landing sites available at California's Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands Space Harborin New Mexico.

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Astronauts Preparefor Landing
22 December 2006 9:00 a.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. - Sevenastronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are preparing to head hometoday.

MissionControl awoke the astronauts in honor of their holiday arrival with "There's NoPlace Like Home for the Holidays."

"Good morningDiscovery, we hope you agree with us that there's no place like home for theholidays because we hope to see you back here on Earth later thisafternoon,"  NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, based in NASA's Mission Controlin Houston, Texas, radioed up to Discovery's crew.

"Shannon we can't agree more, so thanks for that,"Discovery's STS-116 mission commander Mark Polanskysaid. "We'll be looking forward to seeing you and everybody else back homehopefully today and we'll get back to Houstontomorrow."

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Discovery AstronautsDeploy Small Satellites
21 December 2006 1:36 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery successfully launched twosmall, spherical satellites designed to measure the affects of atmospheric dragon spacecraft, though one appears to be stuck in its housing.

DubbedANDE -- short for Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment -- the twonear-perfect spheres were deployed in a canister that shot away from theIntegrated Cargo Carrier in Discovery's payload bay at 1:23 p.m. EST (1823GMT).

Whileboth spheres were expected to pop out of their canister housing, only one wasvisible in video views.

The ANDEexperiment is part of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program.

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Astronauts Preparefor Friday Landing
21 December 2006 11:36 a.m. EST

                              

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. - Sevenastronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are workingthrough a flight systems check and thruster tests one day before theirplanned landing after a 13-day mission to the International SpaceStation (ISS).

Theastronauts awoke at 7:17 a.m. EST (1217 GMT) to the tune of "A Road LessTraveled" by Joe Sample, apparently chosen for STS-116mission specialist Joan Higginbotham.

"Good morning,Discovery!" NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid called up to the shuttle from MissionControl. "And Discovery, we would certainly have to agree with Joanie, that your trip has been 'the road lesstraveled.'"

"[I]t's great to hear some, good to have some Houston's own incomparable Joe Sample,"Higginbotham replied. "He'll help us ease into the last few days of thismission."

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

Shuttle Astronauts DeploySecond Satellite Payload
20 December 2006 9:00 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- STS-116 mission specialists Joan Higginbotham and ChristerFuglesang have successfully deployed the second oftwo microsatellite payloads of their orbital day.

Twofive-inch cube satellites, part of the Radar Fence Transponder (RAFT) mission,popped out of their spring-loaded housing in Discovery's payload bay at about8:56 p.m. EST (0156 Dec. 21 GMT).

The payload, actually a pair of small, five-inch cubes, aredesigned to test thee limits of the U.S. Space Surveillance systems in Arizona, Alabama and Texas. They were builtby students at the U.S. Naval Laboratory.

 

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

Discovery Crew LaunchesTiny Satellites
20 December 2006 7:41 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- Shuttle astronauts Christer Fuglesangand Joan Higginbotham successfully deployed the MEPSI mission, a pair ofcamera-equipped spacecraft aimed at determining the feasibility of low-powerinspection vehicles to study larger satellites.

DubbedMEPSI, a short version of its lengthy moniker Microelectromechanical System-Based (MEMS) PICOSAT Inspector, the missionfeatures two coffee cup-sized vehicles tethered together.

Deployment of thespring-launched military experiment occurred at about 7:19 p.m. EST (0019 Dec.21 GMT). A second experiment dubbed RAFT - or Radar Fence Transponder -- includesthe jettison of two five-inch cubes, each of which carries a transponder to bedetected by the military's space surveillance system and is designed to relaydata packets and messages, NASA officials said.

RAFT is set to deploy atabout 8:56 p.m. EST (0156 Dec 21 GMT).

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Astronauts Survey Port Wing
20 December 2006 3:37 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- More than two-thirds complete with today's Discovery heat shield inspection,NASA's STS-116 astronauts are now scanning their orbiter's port wing.

The scancomes after completed surveys of Discovery's nose cap and starboard, or right,wing.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's story on today's lateinspection.

Watch a videodescription of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Discovery Crew ScansShuttle Nose Cap
20 December 2006 2:21 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - Astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery have completed asecond survey of their orbiter's nose cap and are breaking for lunch beforetacking the last leg of their heat shield late inspection.

Discovery'sSTS-116 crew completed the nose cap survey at about 2:20 p.m. EST (1920 GMT).They will resume the inspection with a scan of Discovery's left wing leadingedge to complete today's survey.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's story on today's lateinspection.

Watch a videodescription of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Astronauts Scan ShuttleHeat Shield
20 December 2006 1:51 p.m. EST

                              

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla.- Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery arescanningtheir orbiter's heat shield for any signs of damage by spacerocks or orbital debris.

Known asa late inspection, the survey is identical to the scan performed by Discovery'sSTS-116 crew during its second day in orbit on Dec. 10. It features the use ofthe orbiter's sensor-laden boom extension of Discovery's robotic arm [video].

Discovery'screw completed inspecting the orbiter's right wing leading edge at about 12:52p.m. EST (1752 GMT). A survey of the orbiter's nose cap is underway, and willbe followed by a look at the orbiter's left wing leading edge.

The STS-116crew awoke at 7:47 am. EST (1247 GMT) to the tune of "Say You'll Be Mine" byChristopher Cross, a song chosen for mission specialist Thomas Reiter.

"Goodmorning, Discovery!  And good morning, Thomas, welcome to the Discoverycrew," NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, serving as spacecraft communicator,radioed to the STS-116 crew after wake up. "And we are looking forward toseeing you here back on planet Earth just real soon."

Click herefor SPACE.com's story on today's lateinspection.

Watch a videodescription of the heat shield inspection here.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Discovery DepartsSpace Station
19 December 2006 6:00 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discoveryhas passed over the top of the International Space Station (ISS) as pilotWilliam Oefelein guides the orbiter away from theorbital laboratory.

Camerasaboard the ISS returned crisp views of the departing shuttle, while theircounterparts aboard Discovery did the same of the station.

Discoveryhas successfully fired its first engine burn to pull away from the ISS. A finalseparation burn is set for 6:52 p.m. EST (0152 Dec. 20 GMT).

"ForAlpha, from the crew of Discovery, we wish you smooth sailing," Discovery'sSTS-116 commander Mark Polansky radioed as theshuttle departed. "We hope you enjoy the new electrical system we installed."

Thisconcludes our live coverage of Discovery's undocking from the ISS. A wrap storywill be posted to the SPACE.com home page shortly.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Partial ISS Flyaround Underway by Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 5:41 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - Shuttle pilot William Oefelein is guiding the Discovery orbiter in a partial triparound the International Space Station.

Themaneuver, which carries Discovery up and over the ISS as it departs, willreturn images of the station in its new configuration.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle's Departure OffersNew Space Station View
19  December 2006 5:33 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - A camera inside Discovery'sdocking mechanism is offering a new view of the International Space Station(ISS).

Theorbiter is nearing the 400-foot mark ahead of the ISS as it backs away from itsberth at the tip of the outpost's U.S. Destiny module.

The spacestation appears strikingly different, with one solar array furled and a newspacer segment attached to its port side.

If youare watching NASA TV currently, the furled array appears as stump atop the station'smast-like Port 6 truss. The new segment, the Port 5 truss, is at the right ofthe two solar arrays on the right side of the screen.

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Space Shuttle DiscoveryBacks Away From ISS
19  December 2006 5:19 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - The space shuttle Discovery ismore than 110 feet away and counting from the International Space Station.

The NASAspacecraft spent seven days, 23 hours and 58 minutes docked at the ISS. STS-116mission commander Mark Polansky is overseeing hisshuttle's initial departure from the space station.

Shuttlepilot William Oefelein is expected to take thecontrols for a partial ISS flyaround once the orbiterreaches a distance of 400 feet.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Discovery CastsOff from ISS
19 December 2006 5:11 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discoveryhas successfully cast off from the International Space Station (ISS), followingeight days of docked operations.

"Houston copies, physicalseparation,"  Mission Control said.

Undockingoccurred at 5:10 p.m. EST (2210 GMT).

Thespacecraft is now floating away from its berth at tip of the U.S. Destinymodule. Once 400 feet away, shuttle pilot William Oefeleinis due to take the helm and guide the spacecraft up and over its recent orbitalharbor.

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followbriefing live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

 

Discovery Poised to PushAway from ISS
19 December 2006 5:00 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - The spring-loaded dockingdevice designed to gently nudge NASA's Discovery shuttle away from theInternational Space Station (ISS) is primed and ready for today's undockingactivities.

A shorttime ago, flight controllers here at NASA's Johnson Space Center gave the shuttle'sSTS-116 crew a go for undocking [video].

The spacecraft remains set tocast off at 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT).

Once 400 feet away, shuttlepilot William Oefelein will begin guiding the orbiterahead, up and over the ISS in a partial flyaroundbefore departing the orbital laboratory.  

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Set to Cast Offfrom Space Station
19 December 2006 4:45 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - NASA's space shuttle Discovery is less than30 minutes from departingthe InternationalSpace Station (ISS).

Aboardthe ISS, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams reported allis going well. Undocking is set for 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) [video].

"Stationis ready for undocking," she told Mission Control.

Meanwhile,two errant bits of equipment -- a lost socket and digital camera -- that werelost during two spacewalks at the ISS have been determined to be well below andahead to the ISS, presenting no danger to today's undocking of the station'sfuture flight, NASA said.

AboardDiscovery, astronauts are powering up the orbiter's docking mechanism.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

ISS Departure Nears forShuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 4:33 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - The clock is ticking down toundocking for NASA's space shuttleDiscovery, which sits poised to castoff from the InternationalSpace Station (ISS).

Aboardthe ISS, the three-person crew - with NASA spaceflyerSunita Williams taking the place of European SpaceAgency astronaut Thomas Reiter - is returning to normal operations after eightdays of joint operations with Discovery's STS-116 crew.

Undockingefforts are proceeding as planned towards a 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) shuttledeparture.

AboardDiscovery, shuttle pilot WilliamOefelein is preparing to fly the 100-ton orbiteron a quarter-lap around the ISS. After undocking, he will guide the shuttle up,over and away from the orbital laboratory.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Shuttle Discovery Readied forISS Undocking
19 December 2006 4:09 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - Astronauts aboard NASA's space shuttle Discovery are poweringup their spacecraft and preparing undocking equipment and cameras as they readythe orbiter to castoff from the InternationalSpace Station (ISS).

Undockingactivities are proceeding on time for a departure time of 5:09 p.m. EST (2209GMT) today [video].

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Leak Checks UnderwayBetween ISS, Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 3:35 p.m. EST

                               

HOUSTON - As preparations continue fortoday's shuttle undockingat the InternationalSpace Station (ISS), leak checks between the two spacecraft are underway.

NASA's space shuttle Discovery is set tocast off from the ISS at about 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT) from its berth at theend of the outpost's Destiny laboratory [video].

The leakchecks currently being performed will ensure that the hatches of both Discoveryand the ISS are secure before the two undock and head their separate ways.

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to follow NASA'sSTS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Hatches Shut Between ISS,Shuttle Discovery
19 December 2006 2:50 p.m. EST

                              

HOUSTON - Hatches between NASA's space shuttle Discovery and the International SpaceStation (ISS) are closed for the first time in just under eight days astoday's undockingpreparations continue [video].

Theofficial time of hatch closure was 2:42 p.m. EST (1942 GMT), which puts thedocked time between the two spacecraft at a total of seven days, 19 hours and48 minutes.

Discovery'sSTS-116 crew was nine days, 17hours and 54 minutes into a planned 13-day mission at the time of hatchclosure.

Undockingremains set for 5:09 p.m. EST (2209 GMT).

 

Click herefor a videopreview of today's shuttle undocking.

 

Click herefor SPACE.com's undockingpreview story.

You are invited to followNASA's STS-116 mission live using SPACE.com's NASATV feed available at via the link on the left of this page.

 

- Tariq Malik

Astronauts Make HeartfeltFarewells
19 December 2006 2:25 p.m. EST

       

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