HOUSTON --Astronauts aboard NASA's shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station(ISS) will haul cargo between their two spacecraft Friday and gear up for aweekend spacewalk outside the orbital laboratory.
Led by teacher-turned-spaceflyerBarbara Morgan and astronaut Alvin Drew, Jr., the 10 astronauts aboard ISSand Endeavour are stepping up work to transfer about four tons worth of cargobetween their two spacecraft. The day's activities come after NASA missionmanagers decided that a small gouge in the heat-resistant tiles of Endeavour'sheat shield did notrequire a spacewalk repair.
"Theword that we are getting is that this is more an issue for the orbiter's reuseand not our personal safety," Morgan, who served as NASA's backup Teacherin Space for Christa McAuliffe before the 1986 Challenger accident, toldreporters Thursday. "Spaceflight is risky, but we all have confident thatwe're going to be able to do the right thing."
After aweek of analysis and testing, NASA mission managers concluded that the 31/2-inch by 2-inch (9-centimeter by 5-centimeter) divot on Endeavour'sunderbelly did not pose a risk to the safe descent and landing of its astronautcrew. The decision allowed the STS-118 astronauts to continue their plannedmission activities Friday instead of jumping into new tasks.
In additionto moving supplies between their two spacecraft, the joint crews of the ISS andshuttle Endeavour are due to speak to reporters in the U.S. and Canada via aspace-to-ground video link at about 1:34 p.m. EDT (1734 GMT).
Theastronauts will also begin going over plans for a Saturday spacewalk, thefourth of NASA's STS-118 mission aboard Endeavour, to continue assembly tasksoutside the ISS. Endeavour mission specialist Dave Williams and ISS Expedition15 flight engineer Clayton Anderson are expected to performthe spacewalk.
Endeavour'sSTS-118 has already delivered a new 4,010-pound (1,818-kilogram) girder to thestation's starboard and outfittedthe orbital laboratory with a 7,000-pound (3,175-kilogram) platform loadedwith spare parts.
"Wealso have about 150 bags worth of stuff, of equipment and everything that theground ... that our station crew needs," Morgan told students at McCall-DonnellyElementary School, her former teaching post in McCall, Idaho, Thursday. "Andwe've been transferring that back and forth, and that's what we've been reallybusy with lately."
Most of thatcargo, about 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of it, sat tucked away in theSPACEHAB module inside Endeavour's payload bay for later delivery. Thepressurized cargo pod is making its last trip into space with Endeavour'sSTS-118 mission and will haul about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of scienceexperiment results, unneeded equipment and other items back to Earth aboardEndeavour. While two of the modules will remain primed for future flightsthrough NASA's September 2010 retirement date, upcoming ISS shipments aboardU.S. orbiters are expected to ride up in the agency's Italian-builtMulti-Purpose Logistics Modules, mission managers have said.
"We'reall sad that this is the last module mission," Don Moore, director ofground operations for SPACEHAB at the firm's Cape Canaveral, Florida, has said."It's kind of hard to see that go away."
NASA isbroadcasting Endeavour's STS-118 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates andSPACE.com's NASA TV feed.
- VIDEO: STS-118 Mission Profile: SPACEHAB
- VIDEO: Endeavour Shuttle Tile Damage
- Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage