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Space shuttle Discovery is "Coming Home"posted March 9, 2011 3:23 a.m. CST

If the weather cooperates in Florida, space shuttle Discovery will roll to its final wheel stop on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 this morning.

The STS-133 crew members woke for what is scheduled to be their last day in space at 2:23 a.m. CST. Their wake up song, dedicated by the International Space Station flight control teams that supported them, was "Coming Home" by Gwyneth Paltrow.

"We certainly appreciate that coming from the ISS flight control team," radioed Discovery's commander Steve Lindsey. "They did just a bang up job from start to finish on this mission. Looking forward to a good day."


Credit: NASA TV

The crew is scheduled to begin deorbit preparations at 5:53 a.m. and close the doors to Discovery's payload bay at 7:12 a.m. The crew will be getting into their orange launch and entry suits at 8:29 a.m. and climbing into their seats at 8:52 a.m.

At 9:42 a.m., entry flight director Tony Ceccacci is scheduled to conduct his flight control team for a "go" or "no-go" for Discovery's deorbit burn. Assuming he gets a "go," Discovery's engines will fire for its deorbit burn at 9:52 a.m.

That'll drop Discovery back into Earth's atmosphere, setting up Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott for a 10:57 a.m. landing.

At that point, space shuttle Discovery will have spent a total of 365 days in space, over the course of 39 missions. It will have orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled more than 148 million miles.

If needed, there is a second return opportunity to Kennedy at 12:34 p.m. It would require a deorbit burn at 11:29 a.m.
Configuring Discovery for its return homeposted March 9, 2011 7:27 a.m. CST

Space shuttle Discovery's two 60-foot payload bay doors were closed at 7:19 a.m. CST and STS-133 commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and flight engineer Nicole Stott began changing over the shuttle's flight controls from OPS-2, the software used they used for on-orbit operations, to OPS-3, used for reentry and landing, about five minutes later.

The preparations are leading up to Discovery performing a deorbit burn at 9:52 a.m. CST, setting up a 10:57 a.m. touchdown on Runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, weather permitting.

"The weather is looking very favorable at [Kennedy] right now as far as ceilings and visibility. Winds were about half of what is forecast." radioed capcom Charles Hobaugh from Mission Control. "So KSC is shaping up pretty good for the first opportunity."
"Go" for going homeposted March 9, 2011 9:34 a.m. CST

Space shuttle Discovery, flying its final mission, will be returning today to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Flight controllers gave STS-133 mission commander Steven Lindsey the word that he was "go" to perform the deorbit burn that will begin the shuttle's 39th and final journey back into the Earth's atmosphere.

Lindsey will fire Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines at 9:52:04 a.m. CST, setting up a 10:57 a.m. touchdown on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.
Deorbit burnposted March 9, 2011 9:52 a.m. CST

Commander Steve Lindsey fired Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines at 9:52:04 a.m. CST for two minutes and 27 seconds, slowing the orbiter's velocity by about 200 miles per hour, beginning his and his five crewmates' return to Earth.

Discovery is on its way home after a successful final mission, its 14-day flight to deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) Leonardo and Express Logistics Carrier-4 (ELC4) to the International Space Station.

Landing on Runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center is set for 10:57 a.m. CDT.
Entry interfaceposted March 9, 2011 10:25 a.m. CST

Space shuttle Discovery, flying Mach 25 over the South Pacific Ocean with its nose tipped up and its wings level, encountered the first traces of the Earth's atmosphere, known as "entry interface," at 10:25 a.m. CST at an altitude of 400,000 feet while still 5,055 miles from Kennedy Space Center.
S-turnsposted March 9, 2011 10:30 a.m. CST

Discovery is now flying a series of four steep banks, rolling as much as 80 degrees to one side or the other, to slow its approach.

The first bank, at 10:30 a.m. CST, rolled Discovery 80 degrees to the right. Its first right-to-left turn will occur eight minutes later.

This series of roll and roll-reversal commands gives the shuttle's ground track toward the landing site the appearance of an elongated "S," hence they are referred to as "S-turns."
Boom! Boom!posted March 9, 2011 10:53 a.m. CST

Twin sonic booms heard over Florida, announcing Discovery's final arrival in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center.

STS-133 commander Steve Lindsey has now taken control of Discovery to guide it through a 250-degree left overhead turn to align with Runway 15 for a 10:57 a.m. CST touchdown in Florida.
Wheels stop: Discovery lands for a final timeposted March 9, 2011 10:59 a.m. CST

The world's most often flown spacecraft is back on Earth to stay.

Space shuttle Discovery touched down in Florida on Wednesday, making its 39th and final landing to successfully complete a 14-day mission that delivered the last U.S.-segment pressurized module to the International Space Station (ISS).

Commander Steven Lindsey piloted Discovery and his five STS-133 crew mates to an arrival at 10:57:17 a.m. CST (1657 GMT) on Runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

Photo Gallery: Discovery lands for a final time


Credit: collectSPACE.com / Robert Pearlman

"Houston, Discovery, for the final time, wheels stop," announced Lindsey as Discovery came to rest 12 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes and 50 seconds after launching on Feb. 24. The main gear first touched down 57 seconds earlier.

"That was a great landing in a tough condition," radioed capcom Charles Hobaugh to Lindsey from Mission Control. The "tough condition" was in reference to a strong headwind that slowed Discovery's final approach.

"It was an awesome docked mission that you all had," Hobaugh said. "You were able to take Discovery up to a full 365 days of actual time on orbit. I think you would call that a fleet leader and a leader of any manned vehicle for a time in orbit. So job well done."

Landing with Lindsey were pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott, Steve Bowen, Alvin Drew and Stephen Bowen.

"We believe, if we did our math right, which we may not have, this is 365 days on orbit for Discovery. An entire year in space," said Lindsey after exiting the shuttle and taking the customary walk-around of his ship.

In the course of that time, Discovery made 5,830 orbits of Earth, logging 148,221,675 miles.


Credit: NASA TV

"Discovery launched and came back on this flight just like my previous two flights on Discovery, with absolutely no leans against her, no single system with any problems whatsoever," said Lindsey. "If you think about a vehicle that is 26, 27 years old that has been flying for that long, to come back perfect, I have never seen an airplane be able to do that."

"It is a pretty bittersweet moment for all of us. As the minutes pass, I am actually getting sadder and sadder about this being the last flight. I know all the folks involved in the shuttle program feel the same way," admitted Lindsey.

NASA's third orbiter to be built and enter service, Discovery's first flight, STS-41D, launched in August 1984. It flew a total of 39 times, including both of NASA's "return to flight" missions following the loss of Challenger and Columbia. Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ulysses solar probe and was the first ever to recover satellites from orbit. It was the first shuttle to visit the ISS and delivered its largest laboratory, Japan's Kibo pressurized module.

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