The final shuttle crew began their first full day in space with a chorus of well wishes from some of the many people who helped put them there.
"Good morning, Atlantis!" NASA employees said in a message recorded before the launch. "The Marshall Space Flight Center hopes you enjoyed your ride to orbit. We wish you a successful mission and a safe return home."
Marshall Space Flight Center, located in Huntsville, Ala., is responsible for the shuttle's propulsion system — the shuttle's three main engines, the twin solid rocket boosters and the external tank.
The message was preceded by the flight's first wakeup song, Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," which was played for pilot Doug Hurley. The wakeup call came at 2:59 a.m. CDT.
With that encouragement, Atlantis' crew — Hurley, commander Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim — got to work on their Flight Day 2 activities. The main objective of the day will be to get a closer look at the shuttle's heat shield to verify that it didn't sustain any damage during Atlantis' climb into orbit.
To do so, Ferguson, Hurley and Magnus will use the shuttle's robotic arm and 50-foot long boom to get a close up look at the shuttle's wing leading edges and nose cap. A suite of cameras on the end of the boom will capture images of the reinforced carbon carbon that protects the shuttle from the hottest temperatures it experiences. Imagery experts on the ground will comb through the data to make sure that the heat shield is still in good shape.
The survey is set to start at 7:19 a.m., and wrap up about six hours later.
Later in the day, Walheim will work with Hurley to check out the tools that will be used during Atlantis' rendezvous and docking at the International Space Station on Sunday. Meanwhile, Ferguson and Magnus will install a camera in the window of the shuttle's hatch for a view that will help them align Atlantis with the orbiting laboratory.
Each day that the final space shuttle mission is in flight, collectSPACE plans to highlight milestones and events from the space shuttle's history that also occurred on the same day over the past three decades. "Today in Space Shuttle History" will also note "lasts" being set by the STS-135 mission.
STS-135 Flight Day 2, July 9
1943 Space shuttle commander John H. Casper is born. He flew four times to space on missions STS-36, STS-54, STS-62 and STS-77.
1992 Space shuttle Columbia makes its first landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing the STS-50 mission devoted to the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory. At 13 days and 19 hours, STS-50 was the longest shuttle mission up to that time and laid the groundwork for future space station science operations.
July 9, 1992: Space shuttle Columbia lands, completing the STS-50 mission. Credit: NASA
Atlantis' astronauts inspected the orbiter's thermal protection system with its robotic arm and attached 50-foot boom Saturday. They also prepared rendezvous tools for arrival at the International Space Station.
Docking with the orbiting laboratory is scheduled for a little after 10 a.m. CDT Sunday.
Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialist Sandy Magnus spent much of their day gathering visual and electronic data on the reinforced carbon carbon of Atlantis' wings leading edges and nose cap. Experts on the ground will review the data to ensure they have not been damaged.
No obvious issues were reported. If analysis reveals any indication of damage the crew could be asked to conduct a focused inspection of any suspect area.
While the inspection was under way, the fourth STS-135 crew member, mission specialist Rex Walheim, spent much of his afternoon on Atlantis' middeck. He worked to prepare items carried into orbit for transfer to the space station.
In addition to the middeck cargo, Atlantis is bringing to the station the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM), packed with supplies and equipment for the station. Raffaello is to be unberthed from the cargo bay and installed on the station's Harmony node early on Monday. After unloading, it will be packed with station discards and other items, and put back in the cargo bay for return to Earth.
After the heat shield survey and the work with the middeck cargo, all four crew members worked to prepare for rendezvous and docking with the station. Hurley and Walheim checked out rendezvous tools while Magnus and Ferguson installed the centerline camera and extended the orbiter docking system ring.
The astronauts went to sleep at 6:29 p.m. CDT. Flight Day 3 begins with the astronauts waking up at 2:29 a.m. Sunday.