Astronauts to bid station crew goodbye
Updated: 2006-07-15 13:09
HOUSTON - Space shuttle Discovery was prepared to pull away from the
International Space Station on Saturday, marking the end of a nine-day visit
that positioned NASA to resume assembly of the outpost as early as next month.
NASA's flight team, meanwhile, weighed options for handing a tiny fuel
leak in one of the shuttle's power units that are needed for landing.
Piers Sellers (top, L)
covers his head as his crewmates laugh after he was described as the
spacewalker who lost the spatula during a crew news conference from aboard
the International Space Station in this view from NASA TV July 14, 2006.
The members of the crew are front row (L-R) Pilot Mark Kelly, ISS
Commander Pavel Vinogradov, Jeff Williams, and back row, Sellers,
Stephanie Wilson, Lisa Nowak and Mike Fossum.
"The mission has just gone outstanding," said flight director Rick
LaBrode. "We're ready to proceed with assembly operations."
shuttle mission is scheduled for launch around August 28.
astronauts spent a long and somewhat frustrating final day at the space station
on Friday, conducting a painstaking scan of one of their ship's wings to check
for damage from micrometeoroids. NASA added the survey as part of the safety
upgrades imposed after the Columbia disaster.
The shuttle now flies with
a laser imager and digital cameras mounted on the end of a 50-foot (15-metre)
extension to the shuttle robot arm. The sensors are used to check for damage to
the shuttle's heat shield from launch debris, which is what doomed Columbia and
its seven-member crew.
Discovery has been cleared for landing, but NASA
decided to take advantage of the equipment to make a final survey of the heat
shield to check for damage that could have occurred while the shuttle was in
The crew had problems with the robot arm and the scan was
delayed. At one point, flight directors offered to let the crew skip part of the
survey, but Discovery commander Steve Lindsey decided to trim the crew's sleep
The other wing and the shuttle's nosecap were scheduled to
be surveyed on Saturday after the spacecraft undocks from the station, which is
planned for 6:08 a.m. EDT (1008 GMT).
Landing at the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida is set for 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT) on Monday.
Friday, engineers prepared a revised landing plan in case the shuttle has to
touch down with just two of its three power units operational. The devices are
used to control the body flaps, rudder and speed brakes for landing. One unit
has a tiny leak and may be shut down, though managers said there would be no
additional risk to the shuttle or crew.