The space shuttle Discovery and International Space Station (ISS) crews will get a special call Thursday from the White House. President Obama will call to talk with all 12 crew members at 4:03 p.m. CST.
The STS-133 astronauts' eighth day in space began at 4:05 a.m. with the song "City of Blinding Lights" by U2.
"That comes to you from your crew mate on the Earth, Tim Kopra. That was going to be Tim's wake-up song and he asked us to play that for you today to honor his crew mates in space," said capcom Mike Massimino from Mission Control in Houston.
"Thanks to Tim for that," Discovery's commander Steve Lindsey replied. "Even though he is on the ground, he did a wonderful job supporting us through our EVAs and as he knows, he's here with us right now."
Discovery and ISS crew members inside the PMM Leonardo. Credit. NASA
After yesterday's spacewalk, the crew will enjoy a well-deserved half-day off. First though, they will spend their morning continuing cargo transfers from Discovery and the ISS. To date, the crew has completed just over three-quarters of the planned payload transfers between the spacecraft.
The astronauts will also participate in two media interview sessions. The first, set for 7:08 a.m., will include Discovery's six crew members and will be with CNN, WTTG-TV in Washington, DC, WSTP-TV in Tampa, Florida and KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California.
The second, scheduled for 9:33 a.m., will see pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott talk with MSNBC, WXIA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia and Fox News Radio.
Meanwhile, ISS Expedition 26 commander Scott Kelly and flight engineer Cady Coleman will perform maintenance on the space station's U.S.-side carbon dioxide removal assembly (CDRA). The Russian Vozdukh, which also scrubs carbon dioxide, has been down for repair but is scheduled to be operational again today.
Discovery's final flight gains an "extra, extra day"
Already extended by one day, space shuttle Discovery's final space flight will last an additional day longer.
"We've just gotten official word that the [mission management team] has decided to go add the extra, extra day so you will have one more day on orbit," radioed capcom Megan McArthur from Mission Control in Houston.
"Alright," replied STS-133 commander Steve Lindsey. "I'll pass that word along and that's great news. We're excited."
"And Megan, we copy that too on station," added Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander. "That's good news, thanks."
Originally planned as an 11-day (12 flight days) mission, Discovery's final visit to the International Space Station (ISS) was extended Feb. 28 (flight day 5) by an additional docked day to allow the shuttle crew to help their station counterparts unpack and configure the newly-installed Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) Leonardo.
Today's decision to add yet another extension will mean that Discovery's crew will spend all of Friday and Saturday (flight days 9 and 10) outfitting the PMM by not only transferring cargo but also setting up its systems to support conducting science.
The mission schedule now has STS-133's astronauts boarding Discovery and closing the hatches between the shuttle and ISS on Sunday. They'll then undock on Monday and start their journey home for a targeted return to Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:58 a.m. CST on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama made a long-distance call to the crews onboard the International Space Station on Thursday, to share how proud he was of their achievements and to check on the status of their newest, robotic crewmate.
"I wanted to call and just say how personally proud I am of you and all that you are accomplishing," the President told station commander Scott Kelly. "We are always inspired by the images of you guys at work as you put some of the final pieces in place to make ISS fully operational. You are setting such a great example with your dedication, your courage, your commitment to exploration."
President Obama calls the crews in space while NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and OSTP's Ted Wackler and Damon Wells listen. Credit: White House
The President also recognized this being shuttle Discovery's final flight.
"It has traveled more distance in space and spent more time in orbit than any of its peers in the shuttle fleet. So it's appropriate it is performing this critical and iconic mission and adding to the legacy by working on this ISS assembly to full operations," said Obama.
"On behalf of the crew it is a real privilege for us to get to fly Discovery on her final mission," replied STS-133 commander Steven Lindsey." We were trying to calculate now that we are going to land on Wednesday, we think that when we'll land, the Discovery will have flown in space for 365 days, so for a whole year, which is pretty incredible for a vehicle. She's been into space 39 times and that's a pretty incredible record. She won't be forgotten for a long, long time we hope."
"That's a remarkable, remarkable record," said the President.
Obama later turned his attention to the newest station crew member, who was launched by Discovery and who will remain on the ISS.
"This R2 robot... I don't know if you guys are putting R2 to work but he's got a lot of attention. That helps inspire young people when it comes to science and technologies. Are you guys making him do chores up there? Washing the dishes or something, or does he have more exciting jobs?"
"Well sir, we actually just pulled him out of our Permanent Multipurpose Module that we just delivered and installed two days ago. I think we pulled him out yesterday and he's off camera, right there, right next to the camera. He's still in packing foam so we hope to get him out shortly. It's going to be fun to see how he works," explained Lindsey.
"He's still in packing foam?" teased the President. "That's a shame, man. Come on guys, unpack the guy! He flew all that way and you guys aren't unpacking him?"
"You know the poor guy's been locked in that foam for about four months now and every once in a while, we hear some scratching sounds from inside. And maybe 'Let me out! Let me out!' but we're not sure," Lindsey joked.
"Well, let him stretch his legs pretty soon," advised the President.