Space shuttle Atlantis' six crew members are awake and are embarking on their first full day in space for the mission. Today, the crew will focus on a routine inspection of the orbiter and preparations for their docking to the International Space Station (ISS).
The astronauts awoke at 3:20 a.m. CDT to "You're My Home" performed by Billy Joel and played for STS-132 commander Ken Ham, who is on his second spaceflight.
"It's a great day in space," radioed Ham. "You got a happy, healthy crew up here. Getting ready to have some fun and look out the window on a great day."
The main focus of the day will be the six-hour-long inspection of Atlantis' wing leading edges and nose cap. Ham, pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Garrett Reisman and Piers Sellers will use the orbiter's robotic arm and specialized cameras to downlink detailed views of the thermal protection system for analysis by specialists on the ground.
Meanwhile, Michael Good and Stephen Bowen will unpack and ready the spacesuits to be used for three planned spacewalks. Later in their day, Bowen and Reisman will perform a checkout of the tools needed for the rendezvous and docking to the station, which is planned for 9:27 a.m. on Sunday.
Atlantis' cargo bay and its vertical stabilizer. Credit: NASA
ISS Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko, Soichi Noguchi, T.J. Creamer, and Tracy Caldwell Dyson are likewise preparing for the arrival of the shuttle crew.
As part of those preparations, the station may need to fire its Russian Progress M-05M's thrusters to avoid a piece of debris. Though still under review, if a maneuver is executed, it would be a 0.5 meter-per-second retrograde burn at 8:08 p.m. CDT, and would not affect rendezvous with Atlantis.
The STS-132 astronauts' inspection of Atlantis' heat shield has run into a snag, literally.
A pinched cable prevented the camera at the end of the shuttle's robotic arm orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS) 50-foot extension from panning and tilting as needed to perform the inspection.
"It is crystal clear exactly where the pinch is," reported Ken Ham, Atlantis' commander. "No matter of panning is going to help that situation."
The cable, which runs from the side of the camera's body to its front near the lens, was, according to Ham, being caught by a hard-stop designed to keep the camera from tilting up too far. The astronauts reported seeing the cable crimp and expressed concern that exerting force might sever it.
After having the crew take photos and video of the pinch, Mission Control advised the astronauts to reconfigure using a back-up sensor package, consisting of a laser camera system and a digital camera with a slightly lower range of coverage. Due to the second package's camera needing good lighting, the inspections will only be conducted when the shuttle is in daylight.
The primary camera with pinched cable. Credit: NASA TV
To compensate for the longer time required and for the already long delay getting started, the crew will be following the streamlined procedures for the "late" inspections performed at the end of the mission, skipping less critical areas such as a the crew cabin.
If needed, additional inspections can be made after Atlantis arrives at the International Space Station early on Sunday.
Atlantis' astronauts checked out their spacesuits and rendezvous tools in preparation for docking with the International Space Station (ISS), set for 9:27 a.m. CDT Sunday, while also almost finishing a modified inspection of their shuttle's heat shield.
Mission specialists Michael Good and Steve Bowen took several hours Saturday checking out the spacesuits they will wear (along with an extra suit to be left for the station's crew) and prepared them for transfer to the station's Quest airlock, where their three spacewalks will based. Garrett Reisman, the STS-132 mission's third spacewalker, spent much of his day working with pilot Tony Antonelli and commander Ken Ham on the thermal protection system survey, but did manage to spend some time helping with the suit and spacewalk equipment checkouts.
Before the heat shield checkout began, the crew encountered a problem with a cable snagging the pan-tilt unit on the end of the 50-foot orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS), the mount for senor package 1, the Laser Dynamic Range Imager and the intensified video camera.
Flight Day 2 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV
As a result, Mission Control had the astronauts reconfigure to use sensor package 2, a laser camera and a digital camera mounted near the end of the boom. That system, which requires daylight or another light source, has a resolution of a few millimeters and scans at about 2.5 inches per second. Its imagery of the right wing, the nose cap, and much of the left wing were sent to the ground for detailed analysis.
Images of the areas that the streamlined inspection missed will be taken during the rendezvous pitch maneuver, the "back flip" performed by the shuttle as it nears the station, and using ISS assets. The change is not expected to affect Sunday's rendezvous and docking or otherwise impact the mission.
Managers in Mission Control decided not to perform a debris avoidance maneuver that would have taken place Saturday a little after 8 p.m. CDT. Flight controllers had been monitoring a piece of debris that threatened to come near the station Sunday, but updated tracking information showed the object will remain a safe distance away.
The station crew is shifting their sleep schedule to be ready to welcome the STS-132 astronauts. Atlantis' crew went to bed at 6:20 p.m. and are scheduled to wake for docking day at 2:20 a.m. CDT Sunday.