Astronauts Haul Cargo, Prepare for Spacewalk

Astronauts Haul Cargo, Prepare for Spacewalk
Astronaut Joan Higginbotham, STS-116 mission specialist and loadmaster, looks over procedures checklists in a hatch on space shuttle Discovery during flight day three activities. (Image credit: NASA.)

HOUSTON -- Astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Discovery and the International SpaceStation (ISS) are hauling cargo between their two spacecraft today whilepreparing for an extra spacewalk to pack away a half-furledsolar array atop the orbital laboratory.

AsDiscovery's loadmaster, STS-116mission specialist JoanHigginbotham, is overseeing the transfer of supplies and equipment betweenthe shuttle and ISS, though each of her crewmates have at least some cargoduties today [image].

"Themajority of this shift is probably going to be dedicated primarily to transferactivities," ISS flight director Joel Montalbano said here at NASA's Johnson Space Center in a morning status update. "If you add it all up, it's about 30 crewhours today and this will put us back probably around 95 percent or so ofcompleted transfer."

WhenDiscovery launchedtowards the space station on Dec. 9, it carried4,107 pounds (1,862 kilograms) of supplies, equipment and other hardware tuckedin the Spacehab module mounted within its payload bay, with another 1,107pounds (502 kilograms) of cargo riding up inside the orbiter's middeck,NASA officials have said. The Discovery crew is due to return to Earth with about 2,998 pounds (1,359 kilograms)of unneeded items from ISS inside the Spacehab module while packing away about727 pounds (329 kilograms) of material in their shuttle's middeck.

NASAofficials have scheduled about 100 crew hours of cargo transfer time altogetherfor Discovery's STS-116mission [image].

"This teamis cooking on all cylinders" Montalbano said. "They're all doing a great job."


In additionto hauling cargo, Discovery spaceflyers RobertCurbeam and ChristerFuglesang, of the European Space Agency (ESA), will prime their NASAspacesuits today for a Monday extravehicular activity (EVA) specifically aimedat furling a stubborn solar array atop the space station's mast-likePort 6 (P6) truss.

Missionmanagers added the spacewalk to the shuttle crew's busy schedule late Saturdayafter efforts to shake the solar array appeared successful, though Curbeam and hisspacewalking partner SunitaWilliams ultimately ran out of time to coaxthe array into its storage boxes [image].

Fuglesangand his crewmates awoke today at 9:17 a.m. EST (1417 GMT) to the "Blue DanubeWaltz," a song featured in the science fiction film 2001:A Space Odyssey but chosen for the ESA astronaut for other reasons.

"Goodmorning, I guess my wife chose that song, probably from our wedding day when wedanced to this nice waltz," said Fuglesang of his wife Elisabeth.

"Well youcan think about tomorrow as you dance out the airlock and start your EVA again,"NASAastronaut Shannon Lucid, serving as spacecraft communicator in MissionControl

"I'll dothat, it feels like dancing out there," Fuglesang, who will make the thirdspacewalk of his astronaut career Monday, said.

Curbeamwill be the first shuttle astronaut to perform four spacewalks in a single orbiterflight, but is a veteran of extravehicular activity and currently ranks 13thon the list of all-time spacewalkers, NASA officials said Saturday.

TriciaMack, NASA's lead spacewalk officer for Discovery's STS-116mission, said the two astronauts will perform a series of standardpre-spacewalk activities, among them: charging their NASA spacesuit batteries, goingover procedures and an evening "campout"in the space station's Quest airlock to reduce the amount of time spentbreathing pure oxygen to purge nitrogen from their bloodstreams. Astronautspurge nitrogen from their systems as a preventative measure against developingdecompression sickness, also known as the bends, while working inside their lowerpressure spacesuits.

Mission managers called on the shuttleastronauts to pick through Discovery's tool box for any generic items thatmight prove useful during Monday's spacewalk, Mack said. Any items tapped as apossible tool during the solar array shaking spacewalk will have to be wrappedin Kapton tape as a safety measure, she added.

The spacestation's robotic arm will also be moved into a position that will allowastronauts wider access to the troublesome solar array, NASA officials said.

Discoveryshuttle pilot William Oefelein, who also serves as the intravehicularactivity choreographer for the STS-116 spacewalks, will oversee a review this eveningto go over tomorrow's planned EVA, she added.

"We'll beready to go Monday," Mack said.

  • Video: STS-116 Mission Profile: The Cargo
  • 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
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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.