Shuttle Flight ‘Fantastic,’ Astronauts Say

Shuttle Flight ‘Fantastic,’ Astronauts Say
The STS-116 and Expedition 14 crewmembers share a meal in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

HOUSTON -- The astronaut crews of NASA'sshuttle Discovery and the International SpaceStation (ISS) lauded their joint mission as it passed the halfway markFriday.

"It hasbeen pretty fantastic," Discovery's STS-116commander Mark Polansky told reporters, adding that watching the five first-timespaceflyers on his crew has been a special treat. "They're just doing great."

Discovery'sseven-member STS-116crew is working alongside the space station's three Expedition14 astronauts to continue assembly of the orbital laboratory [image].The shuttle launched towards the ISS on Dec. 9 on a 12-daymission.

After twospacewalks, the joint crews have installeda new piece of the station's main truss and rewiredhalf of its power grid. The other half of the rewiring job is on tap for a thirdplanned spacewalk on Saturday, and ISS flight controllers are discussing a possiblefourthexcursion to completely tuck away a half-furledsolar array before Discovery's crew heads home.

"Of course,we're excited about the possibility of helping out and helping make the houseup here a little bit better by fixing that solar array if we can," STS-116mission specialist RobertCurbeam, a veteran spacewalker, said. NASA hopes to avoid a fourthspacewalk and stowthe array remotely if possible.

One shuttleastronaut, SunitaWilliams, will remain aboard the ISS when Discovery undocks from the ISS.

"It's justa nice place to live," said Williams, who joined the Expedition 14 crew afterarriving aboard Discovery. "My new home is beautiful; it's a little bit crowdedright now with all the stuff we've brought over from SPACEHAB and my shuttle compadreshere."

Williams is relieving European Space Agency astronaut ThomasReiter, who has lived aboard the ISS since July and will return to Earthwith Discovery's crew next week.

"Well itcertainly kind of a bittersweet moment, I should say," Reiter said of leavingthe ISS. "But having been here for half a year, of course I miss the ground, I'mmissing my family and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again."

Earliertoday, Reiter aided his fellow ESA astronaut ChristerFuglesang, Sweden's first spaceflyer, set a new Frisbee toss world record [image].

Fuglesang,a former Swedish national Frisbee champion, kept his Frisbee aloft for 20seconds while Reiter timed him. The feat was part of a discussion with Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria, politicians and schoolchildren.

Theprevious record, 16.72 seconds, was set by Don Cain of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to the World Flying Disc Federation.

"We wereactually throwing it around in the tunnel between the shuttle and the spacestation, and I needed the practice," said Fuglesang, who like many of his STS-116crewmates is making his first spaceflight. He reported some nausea, back painand other ailments in the first few days, but they ultimately subsided.

Fuglesanghas made his first two spacewalks during Discovery's STS-116 mission alongsideCurbeam. Their latest excursion, a five-hour outing to rewire the space stationfrom a temporary electrical set up to a permanent power grid.

Fuglesangsaid he and his Discovery crewmates are enjoying their spaceflight, but lookforward to returning to Earth. Their shuttle, he added, is in fine shape.

"It's goingto be very fun coming back," said Fuglesang, who spent 14 years as an ESA astronautbefore launch on his first flight. "Not that I'm in a hurry to come back, butit's going to be fun."

  • STS-116 Mission Profile Video: EVA 2
  • Images: The Spacewalks of NASA's STS-116
  • Images: Discovery's STS-116 Launch Day Gallery
  • STS-116 Video: Power is Everything
  • STS-116 Video: Building Blocks
  • Mission Discovery: The ISS Rewiring Job of NASA's STS-116
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage
  • The Great Space Quiz: Space Shuttle Countdown
  • All About the Space Shuttle

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of 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's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, 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 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.