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Crew checks Discovery's heat shield, spacesuitsposted Feb. 26, 2011 12:44 a.m. CST

Space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 astronauts spent their first full day in space inspecting their spacecraft's thermal protection system. They also checked out spacesuits and rendezvous tools in preparation for docking with the International Space Station, scheduled for Saturday.

The crew woke at 5:54 a.m. CST to "Through Heaven's Eyes" performed by Brian Stokes Mitchell off the "The Prince of Egypt" movie soundtrack. The song was played for Michael Barratt, who is making his first flight on board a shuttle but his second trip to the International Space Station. He previously spent nearly 200 days as part of the Expedition 19 and 20 ISS crews, having launched to the station on a Russian Soyuz.

"It is great to be back in space again," radioed Barratt from Discovery. "I wish everybody could what we're seeing through our eyes up here, too."

The main focus of the day was, in a way, doing just that: the astronauts conducted a camera survey of Discovery's wing leading edges and nose cap, giving Mission Control a view of the orbiter's exterior surfaces.

Credit: NASA TV

Commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialist Alvin Drew used the shuttle's robotic arm and specialized cameras to downlink detailed views of the reinforced carbon-carbon on the orbiter's nose and wing leading edges, and some of its heat-resistant tiles. The imagery will be analyzed on the ground for any debris-caused damage.

During Discovery's climb into orbit, mission managers reported seeing at least four pieces of the external tank's insulating foam separate from the vehicle, with at least one appearing to have struck the orbiter.

All the observed foam losses however, separated well after aerodynamic sensitive times when debris could seriously damage the shuttle. NASA's engineers also believe they understand why the foam came off the tank: a condition called "cryo-pumping," when trapped pockets of cold air warm and expand, pushing the foam out and off the tank.

Foam loss from Discovery's external tank. Credit: NASA TV

The imagery collected by the crew using the orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS), together with other photos to be taken by station crew members during docking, will enable specialists to ensure that the foam behaved as expected and did not damage Discovery.

While their fellow crewmates worked to complete the inspections, Barratt and his fellow mission specialists Steve Bowen and Nicole Stott worked with Drew to unpack and prepare the spacesuits that Drew and Bowen will use for STS-133's two spacewalks.

The four also got ready for Saturday's docking at the International Space Station, checking out the tools that will be used for the rendezvous and setting up a camera that Lindsey and Boe will use to guide Discovery in.

The astronauts retired for the evening at 9:53 p.m. CST.
Injured and grounded, but flying "in spirit"posted Feb. 26, 2011 8:01 a.m. CST

Astronaut Tim Kopra, who was replaced on Discovery's STS-133 crew in January after he was injured in a bike accident, made a call to his former crewmates Friday, telling them he was there with them "in spirit."

"We have got a special guest in the room that would like to pass on his greetings," radioed spacecraft communicator or capcom Steve Robinson from Mission Control in Houston. "Tell [commander Steven Lindsey] it's MS2 [mission specialist 2], version one."

Astronaut Tim Kopra, left on crutches, in Mission Control. Credit: NASA TV

"I just wanted to tell you guys you all had an awesome launch and we're all very proud of you down here," said Kopra.

"Great to hear your voice Tim," responded Lindsey. "Appreciate the good words. It was a great launch. Can't tell you how much we wish you were here with us as well."

"Well, I am sure you know I feel the same way but I definitely feel like I am there in spirit. I am especially looking forward to seeing Steve and Al go out the door and do great work," said Kopra.

Before being replaced by mission specialist Steve Bowen, Kopra was to have led STS-133's two spacewalks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs). While still on the mend — he walked into Mission Control on Friday using crutches — Kopra helped re-plan the spacewalks for Bowen and Al Drew and will be in Mission Control to assist them during both outings.

"We really appreciate you being willing to go on console and help us out during our EVAs," said Lindsey.

"My pleasure," replied Kopra. "I am enjoying watching you guys. Keep up the great work."

Kopra, left, talks with his former crewmates in space. Capcom Steve Robinson
and flight director Bryan Lunney are to his right.
Credit: NASA TV

"Hey Timmy, it's Nicole. I just want to say I love you and like Steve said, we wish you were here but we're also very happy that you'll be supporting us from the ground," added Nicole Stott.

"I look forward to talking to you on EVA days," she said. Stott will guide Drew and Bowen through the spacewalks as their intravehicular officer.

"Love you back and it's going to be a great couple of EVAs," Kopra said.

"We miss your booming zero-g laughter up here," radioed Michael Barratt from Discovery. "I have to tell you that you are here in a little bit more than spirit but we'll have to explain that when we get back."

"Well, I'm looking forward to that Mike," replied Kopra. "It is great to hear your voice."

"Alright man, you keep watching us and we will try to do our best for you and make you proud with the plan you came up with," said Barratt.

"Sounds good. Take care of those helmets, moving them with the arm," said Kopra, referring to the two spacewalkers and Barratt's control of the robotic arm during the EVAs.

"Let us know if we're screwing up!" Barratt radioed.

"Will do," said Kopra.

"Alright Discovery," injected Robinson, "just goes to show that you have a seven person crew — they're just not all up there with you."

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