STS-120 Mission Updates: Part 3

Astronauts Disembark fromDiscovery, Feel Gravity Again
7 November 2007 2:47 p.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Following a breath-taking touchdown of space shuttleDiscovery, the seven-astronautcrew of STS-120 has left their trustworthy vehicle and are again gettingused to Earth's gravity as they shake hands with top NASA officials.

 

AstronautClay Anderson rode home in a reclined position after spending 152 days in space,and is likely experiencing the most hardship from his return to gravity. Anderson spent 149 of his spaceflying days as a member of Expeditions 15 and 16 on boardthe International Space Station.

 

Meanwhile,scientific experiments on the spaceship's mid deck are being removed bytechnicians who have descended upon Discovery. The orbiter's heat-resistanttiles, brakes and other landing hardware are being looked over on the runway atNASA's Shuttle Landing Facility for anything unusual.

 

NASAexpects the vehicle to be towed back to a servicing hangar around 4:30 p.m. EST(2130 GMT).

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Touchdown! DiscoveryLands Safely in Florida
7 November 2007 1:02 p.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? Shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven astronauts has safely landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, following a 15-day mission to the International SpaceStation and a daring repair of the orbital outpost's damaged solar power array.Touchdown on runway 33 at the Shuttle LandingFacility occurred at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

Commander Pam Melroy andpilot George Zamka guided the orbiter on its fiery plunge through theatmosphere and hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth, then preciselyexecuted a series of turns and banking maneuvers that bled-off excess speed andslowed the 201,895 pound spaceplane for its powerless landing on the 3-milelong paved runway at the seaside space center. Allspacecraft systems performed as expected.

A convoy oflanding support vehicles is now approaching Discovery and technicians will soonbegin to 'safe' the vehicle ? purging the spacecraft of its toxic propellants ?to be followed by the astronauts' exit and traditional 'walkaround' of thespacecraft.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?s STS-120 mission to the International Space Station onNASA TV. Click herefor SPACE.com's NASA TV feed or follow theNASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

-- Roger Guillemette

Shuttle Discovery FliesOver U.S. Heartland
7 November 2007 12:45 p.m. EST

NASA's space shuttleDiscovery is passing ?over the American Heartland asit descends toward a poanned 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landing on Runway 33 atthe Shuttle Landing Facility of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral,Florida.

The shuttle isbleeding off speed by conducting a series of banks. It just passed about210,000 feet over Kansas at a sped of about 13,000 miles per hour, and earlierflew over Nebraska, the home state of astronaut Clayton Anderson returning toEarth aboard Discovery after five months aboard the International SpaceStation.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-1210 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

-- Tariq Malik

Discovery Re-enteringEarth's Atmosphere  
7 November 2007 12:31 p.m. EST

Shuttle Discovery isencountering the upper fringes of Earth's atmosphere, known as 'EntryInterface', at about 400,000 feet above the northern Pacific Ocean as it begins its fiery descent and a long, gliding approachto the 3-mile long runway at the Kennedy Space Center. Landing on Runway 33 atthe Shuttle Landing Facility is scheduled for 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

With the heaton its protective tiles building to 2,500 degrees F, Discovery will shortlycross the North American coast near Vancouver, British Columbia, then plungeacross the American Midwest on its approach to Florida's Space Coast. All spacecraft systems are performing as expected.

Commander PamMelroy and pilot George Zamka completed a 1-minute, 53-second firing ofDiscovery's twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines that began at 11:58:49 a.m.EST (1658:49 GMT) to reduce the shuttle's velocity sufficiently to drop it outof orbit and begin an hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth. Melroy andZamka will pilot the 201,895-pound spaceplane through a series of turns andbanking maneuvers to slow the vehicle for its powerless touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center.

The SpaceflightMeteorology Group, based at Houston's Johnson Space Center, is predictingscattered clouds at about 4,700 feet to the north of Cape Canaveral withheadwinds of 12 knots, peaking to 18 knots, almost straight down the runway ?well within acceptable limits for landing. Astronaut Steve Lindsey is flyingthe Shuttle Training Aircraft on practice approaches to runway 33 and relayinghis observations to flight controllers.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

-- Roger Guillemette

Discovery Heading Hometo Florida  
7 November 2007 12:01 p.m. EST

ShuttleDiscovery has ignited its braking rockets to start a fiery plunge through Earth'satmosphere and a long, gliding descent to the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility where weather conditions are perfect for the spaceplane'sreturn.

Commander PamMelroy and pilot George Zamka completed a 1-minute, 53-second firing of Discovery'stwin Orbital Maneuvering System engines that began at 11:58:49 a.m. EST(1658:49 GMT) to reduce the shuttle's velocity sufficiently to drop it out oforbit and begin an hour-long free-fall descent back to Earth. Touchdown onRunway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility is scheduled for 1:01 p.m. EST (1801GMT).

Discovery'sde-orbit burn slowed the Orbiter's velocity by about 215 feet/second (approx.147 miles/hour) to begin its fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere and along, gliding approach to the 3-mile long runway at the Kennedy Space Center.Discovery and its crew of seven astronauts will first encounter the upperfringes of the atmosphere at about 400,000 feet above the northern PacificOcean, cross the North American coast near Vancouver, British Columbia, thenplunging across the American Midwest on its approach to Florida's Space Coast.

The SpaceflightMeteorology Group, based at Houston's Johnson Space Center, is predictingscattered clouds at about 5,000 feet to the north of Cape Canaveral withheadwinds of 12 knots, peaking to 20 knots ? well within acceptable limits forlanding.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

-- Roger Guillemette

 

Discovery 'Go' for Florida Landing  
7 November 2007 11:52 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? NASA managers have cleared shuttle Discovery to fire itspair of braking rockets for a landingat Florida's Kennedy Space Center where weather conditions are ideal forthe spaceplane's return.

Commander PamMelroy and pilot George Zamka have been the 'Go' for the de-orbit burn at11:58:49 a.m. EST (1658:49 GMT), culminating in a landing on Runway 33 at theShuttle Landing Facility at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

Discovery'sengines will be fired for 1 minute and 53 seconds over the southern IndianOcean to slow the Orbiter's velocity by about 215 feet/second (approx. 147miles/hour) to begin its fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere and a long,gliding approach to the 3-mile long runway at the Kennedy Space Center. Discovery will first encounter the upper fringes of the atmosphere at about 400,000feet above the northern Pacific Ocean, cross the North American coast near Vancouver, British Columbia, then plunging across the American Midwest on its approach to Florida's Space Coast.

The SpaceflightMeteorology Group, based at Houston's Johnson Space Center, is predictingscattered clouds at about 5,000 feet to the north of Cape Canaveral withheadwinds of 12 knots, peaking to 20 knots ? well within acceptable limits forlanding.

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

-- Roger Guillemette

Astronauts Stand byfor Deorbit Burn Approval
7 November 2007 11:30 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Discovery and its seven-astronautcrew continue to prepare for their 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landing, and areawaiting the signal from mission controllers to give them a "go" fordeorbiting.

 

The burst ofpropellant will slow the spaceship by about 148 mph (238 kph), which will dropthe spaceship out of orbit and begin its descent across the heartland of America. The descent path from the northwest U.S. to Florida has not been attempted sincethe loss of Columbia and its crew over eastern Texas in 2003.

 

The101-ton, 24-year-old orbiter is set to touch down on runway 33 at NASA'sShuttle Landing Facility today, but has a second opportunity to land at thesite around 2:36 p.m. EST (1936 GMT).

 

Weatherforecasts are continuing to hold, with gusts of wind at about 23 mph (37 kph).

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Winds Die Down,Astronauts Prepare to Take Their Seats
7 November 2007 11:01 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Winds here at Kennedy Space Center are dying down, accordingto the latest weather reports?further boosting the chances of Discovery makinga 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landing.

 

Flightcontrollers said gusts are topping out at about 23 mph (37 kph), which is 20percent slower than needed to call off a landing opportunity.

 

Clouds at5,000 feet (1,524 meters) are moving north of NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility,and are not expected to interfere with the orbiter's descent across theheartland of America this afternoon.

 

The seven-astronautcrew on board Discovery is about to formally strap into their seats forlanding. The crew has been drinking extra fluids to counter the dehydratingeffects of zero-gravity for their planned return to Earth today.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Clouds Moving Out toSea, Poising Discovery for Landing
7 November 2007 10:35 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? The sevenastronauts on board NASA's space shuttle Discovery are closing in on their238th lap around the Earth and are poised to land at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

 

Anastronaut piloting a shuttle trainer craft on the ground is monitoring cloudsover the Kennedy Space Center landing site, and expects them to clear outbefore Discovery touches down.

 

The 101-tonorbiter should perform a rollover as it passes Nebraska at 12:44 EST (1744GMT). STS-120 commanderPamela Melroy said she'd wave as the crew passes over.

 

AstronautClay Anderson, who is returning after a 152-day stay in space, is a Nebraska native on board the orbiter who said he is looking forward to touching down on theground. Anderson will be strapped into a special recumbent seat that will easehis long-awaited reentry to Earth and its gravitational pull.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Astronauts Plug inLanding Instructions, Prepare Mid Deck
7 November 2007 9:59 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Flight controllers are continuing to feed instructions to theseven-astronaut crew of space shuttle Discovery.

 

NASA saidweather conditions are still acceptable for a 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landingattempt here at Kennedy Space Center. If flight controllers give theshuttle-piloting commanderPamela Melroy the "go" by 11:41 a.m. EST (1641 GMT) to blast offa deorbit burn, the orbiter will begin its descent across the heartland ofAmerica at 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT).

 

The crewrecently closed Discovery's giant payload bay doors and have finishedconfiguring its box-like mid deck.

 

Pilots atNASA's Shuttle Landing Facility continue to monitor cloud cover, which isexpected to blow through before Discovery touches down on runway 33, followinga 190-degree right-hand turn.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Payload Bay Doors Closed on Space ShuttleDiscovery
7 November 2007 9:23 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? The seven-astronautcrew of space shuttle Discovery has closed the orbiter's payload bay doors,marking the first signs of a serious landing attempt at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801GMT).

 

Commander PamelaMelroy, the STS-120 mission is expected to return to Earth today afterspending about 15 days in space since its Oct. 23 launch.

 

Meanwhile,cloud cover over space shuttle Discovery's landing site here at Kennedy Space Center is being monitored by pilots on the ground.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Clear Weather Holdingfor Shuttle Landing Today
7 November 2007 7:03 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Today's fair weather is holding for the arrival of NASA'sspace shuttle Discovery and its seven-astronautcrew, NASA commentators have said.

 

CommanderPamela Melroy and the STS-120 mission crew are continuing to prepare for a1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landing here at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), but areprepared to delay the landing should wind gusts or other weather make for adangerous landing attempt.

 

Assumingthe weather continues to hold, Discovery will fire a spacecraft-slowing blast ofpropellant at 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT), enabling the spaceship to take aone-hour ride through searing atmospheric reentry across the heartland of America.

 

Discoveryis leading the InternationalSpace Station by about 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers), which the spacecraftundocked from on Monday morning.

 

Astronautswill begin closing the shuttle's payload bay doors around 9:19 a.m. EST (1419GMT). The activity will mark the first serious sign of landing on schedule thisafternoon.

 

SPACE.comwill begin livecoverage of landing activities shortly after 8:00 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) thismorning.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Astronaut Crew Awakes,Busy Landing Day Awaits
7 November 2007 2:51 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL,Fla. ? Space shuttle Discovery's seven-astronaut crew have been roused fromsleep with the energetic movie theme song of "Chitty Chitty BangBang," played for commander Pamela Melroy.

 

"Theshuttle may not have ? four fenders," Melroy said, contrasting NASA's101-ton orbiter to the comical movie car, "but it's got two beautifulwings and we're looking forward to a smooth touchdown later today.

 

Severalhours after final deorbit preparations begin at 11:41 a.m. EST (1641 GMT)today, NASA will give the STS-120crew a go-no-go call to initiate what is called a deorbit burn.

 

Thecharacteristic blast of propellant will slow the orbiter's 17,500 mph (28,160kph) speed by about 148 mph (238 kph), which will be just enough to drop thespaceship out of orbit around Earth and begin its descent across the heartlandof America and toward the runway here at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

 

The firstopportunity to initiate the deorbiting blast at 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT), justone hour before Discovery is scheduled to land at 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

 

Meanwhile, thecrew has run out of black ink during their 16 days in space?prompting missioncontrollers to send them their morning documents to print in blue lettering.

 

SPACE.comwill begin livecoverage of landing activities shortly after 8:00 a.m. EST (1300 GMT) thismorning.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Crew Debriefs forReturn to Earth, Set Up New Seat
6 November 2007 1:25 p.m EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? The seven-astronaut crew on board the space shuttle Discoveryhave chatted with flight controllers about the complex process of landingtomorrow, continuingtheir preparations for a 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT) landing here at KennedySpace Center.

 

ISS flightdirector Rick LaBrode said yesterday that the debriefing will thoroughly coverthe responsibilities and roles of each STS-120mission astronaut during the tricky task of landing a 101-ton orbiter.

 

Around 2:18p.m. EST (2018 GMT), astronauts will retrieve and set up a special seat on thebox-like mid deck of Discovery for spaceflyer Clay Anderson. The NASA astronautand Nebraska native has spent five months in space, but told SPACE.comtoday that he's confident he's prepared to return to the pull of Earth'sgravity.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

SPACE.com to Interview Astronauts
6 November 2007 9:15 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? At 9:43 a.m. EST (1443 GMT), SPACE.com will conductlive interviews with the seven-astronaut crew on board Discovery, along withother members of the press.

 

Be sure tocheck out SPACE.com's NASA TV feed during the event, whenstaff writer TariqMalik interviews the astronauts.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Discovery's CrewChecks Systems, Tests Engines
6 November 2007 6:42 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Crewmembers on board the space shuttle Discovery continue to readytheir ride home to Earth tomorrow, stowing gear and checking flight controlsystems.

 

STS-120mission commander Pamela Melroy just gave the call to begin hotfire enginetests?a crucial check of engines used to set and slow the orbiter on a correctpath homeward.

 

"Itlooked good, nice job," mission controllers told Melroy after the testsfinished.

 

Meanwhile,freshly arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), astronautDan Tani called down to Houston to say hello as the orbital laboratory flewoverhead.

 

"Spaceto ground here for the overhead pass," Tani said during the flyover, whopointed out that he could see Houston and Galvaston before the sun beganblinding him.

 

"Lookslike you guys had a friend there," responded ISS flight director RonSpencer, noting the spaceshuttle's short distance from the ISS. "We saw both of you guys flyingfor about two minutes over us."

 

Flightcontrollers at Johnson Space Center (JSC) said the space shuttle is 61 miles(98 kilometers) behind the space station. The report conflicts with locationinformation given by NASA spokespeople at JSC yesterday, who said the shuttlewas leading the orbital laboratory.

 

At 9:43 a.m.EST (1443 GMT), SPACE.com will conduct live interviews with theseven-astronaut crew, along with other members of the press. Be sure to checkout SPACE.com's NASA TV feed during the event.Writer TariqMalik will interview the astronauts.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Astronauts Wake, BeginDeorbit Preparation Tasks
6 November 2007 3:20 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Astronauts are nowmaking final preparations for a Wednesday touch down of the space shuttleDiscovery around 1:01 p.m. EST (1832 GMT) at Kennedy Space Center.

 

Missioncontrollers roused the sleepy seven-person crew with the song "Spacetruckin'"by Deep Purple, played for five-month International Space Station resident ClayAnderson?an avid music fan who jokingly started "KISS radio"during his on-orbit stay.

 

"Theysay all great things have to come to an end and I'm really sorry that I have toagree with for now," Anderson said. "But I had an awesome ride."

 

The crewill test-fire engines, stow gear, speak with the press and set up a special recumbentseat to ease Anderson back into the pull of Earth's gravity. After landing, theSTS-120mission crew will have spent 16 days in space.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Discovery's CrewContinues Thermal Shield Inspection
5 November 2007 12:23 p.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? About 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) separate the InternationalSpace Station and space shuttle Discovery, which undockedfrom the orbital laboratory this morning.

 

The STS-120astronaut crew aboard the shuttle is now more than two hours into a methodical,routine inspection to look for damage from micrometeoroids or space junk in thethermally shielded underbelly of the spacecraft.

 

Such aninspection is the second of the mission; a nearly identical procedure isperformed one day after launch to look for damage from falling chunks of foamor ice from the event, but engineers found nothing of significance.

 

Once theinspection finishes, astronautStephanie Wilson will pack the sensor-tipped extension boom used to scopeout the heat-resistant tiles on Discovery back into the shuttle's payload bay.

 

Meanwhile,other crew members are preparing Discovery for its scheduled Nov. 7 touch downat Kennedy Space Center around 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Astronaut Crew FinishesWing Scans, Moves on to Shuttle Nose
5 November 2007 11:11 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? STS-120astronauts have finished scoping out the leading edges of space shuttleDiscovery's wings, and are now training the sensor-tipped extension boom to thenosecone of the spacecraft's underbelly.

 

The routineprocedure?done both after launch and before landing?checks for any damage tothe thermal shield space shuttles use to ward of the searing heat ofatmospheric reentry.

 

Robotic armoperator Stephanie Wilson will berth the Discovery's sensor-tipped extensionboom back into the payload bay when the three-plus hour inspection is finished.

 

After successfullyundocking from the International Space Station this morning, theseven-astronaut crew is slated to land at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday,Nov. 7 around 1:01 p.m. EST (1801 GMT).

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link at the upper left of this page.

- Dave Mosher

Space ShuttleDiscovery's Shield Scan Under Way
5 November 2007 10:10 a.m. EST

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? The seven-astronaut STS-120crew is now scanning the heat shield of space shuttle Discovery's thermalunderbelly for any chinks or other areas of concern following asuccessful undocking with the International Space Station this morning.

 

Some timeafter 9:38 a.m. EST (1438 GMT), the shuttle's robotic arm grappled a 50-foot(15-meter) extension boom?called an orbital boom sensor system (OBSS)?that istipped with cameras and laser-based sensors.

 

The deviceis now scanning the starboard-side wing leading edge of the space shuttleDiscovery, which is one of seven areas scheduled for scanning. Because leadingedges of Discovery's wings absorb most of the searing heat of reentry,astronauts are performing more detailed scans of the areas.

 

Thenow-standard procedure should last just over three hours after which timerobotic arm operator Stephanie Wilson will berth the OBSS back into the payload bay of Discovery once the inspection wraps up.

 

NASA isbroadcasting Discovery?sSTS-120 mission to the International Space Station on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com'sNASA TV feedor follow the NASA TV link a

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