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  STS-126: ISS Extreme Home Improvements [Flight Day Journal] (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   STS-126: ISS Extreme Home Improvements [Flight Day Journal]
Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-21-2008 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day 8 (con't)

At 11:10 a.m. CST, Endeavour fired its reaction control system (RCS) jets to boost the International Space Station's altitude by about one nautical mile. The 30-minute reboost placed the station in the proper location for Russia's Progress 31 vehicle to dock on November 30.

At about 12:50 p.m. CST, capcom Terry Virts notified ISS commander Mike Fincke and flight engineer Sandy Magnus that engineers had identified the mechanical problem that triggered the station's new urine processor assembly to shut down this morning.

The urine processor assembly is part of a new water recovery system that will recycle urine, perspiration and hygiene water into drinkable water.

Robert Pearlman
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The ISS Expedition 18 and STS-126 crew members participated in a joint crew news conference earlier today, answering questions while inside the station's Harmony node from reporters at Johnson Space Center in Texas, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Headquarters in Washington, and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

collectSPACE.com had the opportunity to pose two questions. The first, directed to Endeavour's commander Chris Ferguson, inquired as to how he and his crewmates celebrated yesterday the tenth anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS).

Then, ISS flight engineer Sandy Magnus replied to a question about her crew's new "pets", the orb-weaving spiders now on-board as part of an educational experiment.

(During Ferguson's response, the connection between the ISS and mission control was briefly interrupted, but the majority of his answer was successfully transmitted.)

UPDATE: Sandy Magnus has named the spiders on-board the International Space Station in response to a question posed by collectSPACE.com during the news conference! She adopted the names from those suggested via e-mail by students.

"How about Elmo and Spiderman," said Magnus.

"Does it matter which one is which?" replied a flight controller at the Payload Operations and Integration Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

"I think they'll both answer to either one, don’t you?" radioed Magnus.


Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 9: The long spacewalk...

Today's crew wake-up song, "You Are Here" by the Christian rock band Dutton, was played for mission specialist Shane Kimbrough.

High above the world tonight,
you're lifted up, you're magnified,
and underneath a bridge of stars,
you let us see how beautiful you are.
Kimbrough, as intravehicular officer, will coordinate today's spacewalk from inside as Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen work outside.

The third and longest spacewalk of the mission will be completely devoted to work on the starboard solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ). Piper will open covers 13 and 14, remove trundle bearing assembly (TBA) one, clean and lubricate the area, install a new TBA and close the covers. She will repeat the process on TBA two under covers 15 and 16 and TBA three under covers 17 and 18.

Bowen will do the same for TBA four under covers 19 and 20, TBA six under covers 22 and one and TBA seven under covers two and three. He also will remove TBA five under cover 20; however, it was replaced on a previous spacewalk, so he will simply clean and re-install it.

Piper, as the lead spacewalker, will wear the red-striped spacesuit while Bowen will be in the all-white suit. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. CST.

Meanwhile inside the station, transfer of equipment between Endeavour and the ISS continue, as well as the attempts by crew and the ground to bring the station's new water recovery system online. The urine-recycling device worked for about two hours on Friday morning before shutting down due a problem with the centrifuge inside the distillation assembly.

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Today's spacewalk began about 45 minutes ahead of schedule at 12:01 p.m. CST and ended at 6:58 p.m. for a total time of six hours and 57 minutes.

Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steven Bowen focused their efforts on the continued cleaning of the station's starboard solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ) and the removal and replacement of the remaining trundle bearing assemblies (TBA).

Piper replaced three TBAs and Bowen replaced two. Five have been replaced during the mission's prior two spacewalks, and one was replaced on the STS-124 mission this past summer.

The two astronauts also cleaned the area around the SARJ's drive lock assemblies, which help the joint to rotate and lock into place.

A final trundle bearing assembly replacement will take place during the fourth and final spacewalk of the flight, which is scheduled for Monday. That spacewalk, which will be conducted by Shane Kimbrough and Bowen, will focus on the lubrication and servicing of the port SARJ.

"This was my last one, so I'm now turning it over to you and Shane," Piper said to her crew mates, referring to the last of her three spacewalks for the mission, if not the last spacewalk of her career as well. "It's time for the new guys."

"Heide, a special congratulations and thanks to you from the station," said Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke. "You helped build us. You helped fix us. You've always been here for us and we're really proud of you."

With today's spacewalk, Piper has a total EVA time of 33 hours and 42 minutes spread over five excursions. This spacewalk was Bowen's second, bringing his career total to 13 hours and 49 minutes.

While the spacewalk was underway, work continued inside the station on the transfer of cargo and supplies from the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM). The station and shuttle crews also worked on setting up the station's new Water Recovery System (WRS), with flight engineer Sandy Magnus collecting the first samples from the Water Processor Assembly (WPA).

Ground controllers continue to examine data from the Urine Processor Assembly to determine why it continues to experience errors. Engineers are exploring the possibility that there is a sensor touching part of the system's centrifuge as it rotates, which might be causing it to slow down.

Endeavour's crew went to bed at 11:55 p.m. tonight and will be awakened at 7:55 a.m. Sunday.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 10: A lazy Sunday in space...

STS-126 commander Chris "Fergie" Ferguson marked his and his wife Sandy's anniversary from space this morning, with the wake-up song "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" by Frankie Valli.

I love you baby,
And if it's quite alright,
I need you, baby,
To warm a lonely night.
I love you, baby.
Trust in me when I say:
Oh, pretty baby,
Don't bring me down, I pray.
Oh, pretty baby, now that I found you, stay
And let me love you, baby.
Let me love you.

You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.
You'd be like Heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much.
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive.
You're just too good to be true.
Can't take my eyes off you.

Today, Endeavour's crew will enjoy some well-deserved time off, as well as continue transferring supplies between the shuttle and station before preparing for their fourth and final spacewalk on Monday.

At 3:05 p.m. CST, some of the crew members will be interviewed by ABC News, CBS News and NBC News.

Meanwhile, station commander Mike Fincke will spend part of the day attempting to fix the urine processor, part of the water recovery system brought to the ISS by STS-126.

Flight controllers believe they have identified a two-fold problem. A sensor appears to be coming into contact with a centrifuge that spins urine in the distillation process, leading the motor driving the system to draw too much power and shut down. Then, a set of isolators -- shock absorbers to limit vibrations -- may be exacerbating the issue.

Fincke is scheduled to spend about two hours this morning removing the dampeners in an attempt to eliminate the interference.

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Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and STS-126 mission specialist Don Pettit worked today to troubleshoot the station's new water recycling system, but ultimately their efforts were unsuccessful.

The urine processor assembly (UPA) inside the water recovery system (WRS), which recycles condensate and urine on-board the station, experienced several shutdowns during testing. Engineers had thought that the motion of the centrifuge was causing an interference within the UPA, resulting in an increased power draw and temperatures.

Fincke and Pettit worked for about two hours to remove grommets from the UPA, as it was believed they might have been allowing the centrifuge too much motion.

Initially, the UPA was reported as running normally, without prematurely shutting down. The system ran successfully beyond the previous days' runs but continued to generate error messages associated with the earlier experienced problems.

"We saw the same signature we saw yesterday and the day before," reported Mission Control after about two hours of operation. "It was a smaller decrease in speed and a smaller increase in current and steadied itself back out. It did not shut off processing."

"That's outstanding news," responded Fincke. "We saw that it is still going."

"You guys are good!" exclaimed flight engineer Sandy Magnus.

Ground controllers had originally intended to allow the UPA to complete processing the current sample before purposefully shutting it down for the evening as they studied the data it generated. Before they could do so however -- at just under three hours into the process -- the UPA again shut itself down.

"The centrifuge speed started going down and then the current went up in a very short period," explained ISS capcom Mark Vande Hei. "Basically the current went up and then six seconds later, it hit our trip limit, the UPA stopped, and that's when we got the caution you see on the board."

"The current jumped up faster than last time but we didn't see the sensor go erratic this time like we did when we had this earlier occurrence," he continued, while noting, "we did process 3.8 liters of urine."

"We saw the tank quantity go from 50 to 20 percent, so that's a third of a tank right there," Fincke responded. "That sounds like potential. I realize you guys are definitely analyzing this. It looks like we made things better but we're still maybe not there yet."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-23-2008 09:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Saturday Sunday Morning Science with Dr. Don Pettit [link to this post]

STS-126 mission specialist Don Pettit used some of his off-duty time earlier today to improvise a new coffee cup for use in space.

Pettit, who lived on the ISS in 2002, is well-known for his "Saturday Morning Science" demonstrations, such as this one...

Pettit, who previously served as International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 6 flight engineer between November 23, 2002 and May 3, 2003, used his free time, usually on Saturday mornings, to shed the light of science on a variety of subjects for students of all ages. His demonstrations were chronicled and dubbed Saturday Morning Science.

Share your reactions to Dr. Pettit's video on our mission viewing commentary thread.

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Flight Day 11: Fourth and final spacewalk...

The International Space Station's and Endeavour's crew members were awakened at 7:55 a.m. CST for a day which will see the fourth and final planned spacewalk for the STS-126 mission.

The wake-up song, "Can't Stop Loving You" as performed by Van Halen was dedicated to Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper by her husband.

There's a time and place for everything, for everyone,
We can push with all our might, but nothins gonna come,
Oh no, nothins gonna change,
And if I asked you not to try,
Oh could you let it be.
I wanna hold you and say,
We can't throw this all away,
Tell me you won't go, you won't go,
Do you have to hear me say,

I can't stop lovin' you,
And no matter what I say or do,
You know my heart is true, oh,
I can't stop loving you.

"I'd like to say thank you to Glenn for that wonderful wake-up song. I love you, too," replied Piper.

STS-126 mission specialists Steve Bowen and Shane Kimbrough will perform the spacewalk today. Their tasks will include lubrication of the port solar alpha rotary joint, work on the Japanese Kibo laboratory and installation of a video camera.

They are scheduled to leave the station's Quest airlock at 12:45 p.m. CST. Bowen will wear the all-white spacesuit and Kimbrough's suit will have broken red stripes.

Pilot Eric Boe will be the intravehicular officer for the spacewalk, which is scheduled to last 6.5 hours.

Today is also planned as the last day for the crew to transfer supplies between the station and Leonardo before closing the hatch tomorrow in preparation for placing the logistics module back into Endeavour's payload bay for its return to Earth with the STS-126 astronauts.

Robert Pearlman
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Mission managers have decided to extend the STS-126 mission by an additional one day to provide the crew more time to troubleshoot the Urine Processor Assembly (UPA), part of the Water Recovery System (WRS) that was launched with Endeavour.

"Well great," replied Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke upon hearing the news from Mission Control. "We really enjoy having these guys up here and if we can only extend by one day that will have to do, but we're grateful for the news."

"Well, hopefully it will be a good extra day for you guys," said capcom Terry Virts.

Undocking had originally been planned for November 27, on Thanksgiving day. With the extension, the station and shuttle crews will be able to share the holiday together.

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"We're having a little bit of an issue with Shane's waist ring," reported STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson, who with Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper was assisting today's spacewalkers get ready for their outing. The ring connects the upper and lower torso assemblies of the pressurized spacesuit.

"We were at the pre-engage position and we took it up, we didn't hear any dogs click but we had every indication that it was locked," explained Ferguson of the latching mechanism. "That's not unusual, I didn't hear any dogs click on Steve's suit, but we could never get the latch up and over."

Ferguson tried disengaging and engaging the latch several times, but the ring failed to lock.

"I don't want to force it a lot, but when I force it just ever so slightly I can feel the dogs beginning to retract but it's like the latch doesn't want to move all the way over," reported Ferguson.

"It sounds like you tried every position there and it's obviously not moving correctly and it's not moving the way Steve's moved," replied capcom Terry Virts.

"We've tried the perimeter around the back, around the sides, we tried the donning handles, and I'm pushing as hard as I should push to try to get it locked and no joy," Ferguson responded.

After several minutes of troubleshooting, EVA officers in Houston decided to switch to a back-up ring.

"We're going to punt to bringing up the spare waist ring," radioed Virts.

As Piper searched for the back-up, Ferguson continued his attempts to get the prime ring to lock, an effort that was ultimately successful.

"We got it," proclaimed Ferguson. "Houston, I think there may be a little bit of a mechanism wear that's actually in the latch, but we do have it up and over and latched at this time."

"That's very good news, sounds like you're happy with it and as long as it's in lock, it is good to go," Virts responded.

"Nice work," he added.

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Today's spacewalk, the fourth and final for the STS-126 mission, began at 12:24 p.m. CST, about 20 minutes ahead of what was scheduled.

Once outside, spacewalkers Shane Kimbrough and Steve Bowen surveyed the port solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ) and reported seeing thin lines of lubricant on the race ring's surface and some minor wear where the trundle bearing assemblies are riding.

The port SARJ has performed normally; Kimbrough and Bowen were performing preventative maintenance, removing covers and applying additional lubrication to the race ring.

Meanwhile, inside the space station, astronauts were continuing to set-up a wireless instrumentation system to track vibrations of the urine processor assembly (UPA). They are also working to add two bolts to hard-mount the distiller assembly section of the UPA in place, which may further reduce the vibrations that engineers believe are causing the recycling system to prematurely shut down.

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At around 2:30 p.m. CST, Steve Bowen reported finishing the installation of the final replacement trundle bearing assembly (TBA) for the station's starboard solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ). In doing so, he completed the STS-126 mission's planned cleaning and servicing of the joint, which permits one of the station's two solar array wings to track the Sun.

At the same time, Shane Kimbrough continued lubricating the port SARJ to avoid the damage that necessitated servicing the starboard joint.

Inside the ISS, commander Mike Fincke reported completing the inflight maintenance of their urine processing assembly (UPA), latching it down tighter in an attempt to cease oscillations that engineers believed were responsible for prematurely shutting down the water recycling device.

Fincke, together with STS-126 mission specialists Don Pettit and Greg Chamitoff, were next going to fill the UPA with urine collected for the purpose of testing the system.

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Shane Kimbrough took a break from lubricating the port solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ) to install a video camera on the Japanese Kibo module. The camera will aid in providing better views of the new H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), a Japanese-built cargo ship, when it arrives next year.

Steve Bowen worked nearby, closing a stuck latch on a berthing mechanism outside the Kibo lab.

Kimbrough then returned to the port SARJ to finish greasing the joint, while Bowen continued working outside Kibo to install a GPS antenna, which will also facilitate the HTV's docking.

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Today's spacewalk ended at 6:31 p.m. CST for a total elapsed time of six hours and seven minutes.

"We want to say thanks [to our trainers] and also the entire SARJ team, great work with all the training and getting us back into operation," radioed Shane Kimbrough at the end of the spacewalk.

On behalf of the entire team, I have the honor of saying thanks to you guys," replied ISS capcom Mark Vande Hei. "You've done amazing work and it's been a pleasure being part of this team."

Today marked Kimbrough's second spacewalk for a career total of 12 hours and 52 minutes. Steve Bowen logged his third extravehicular activity (EVA) for a total of 19 hours and 56 minutes.

This spacewalk marked the fourth and final EVA of the STS-126 mission, which saw three astronauts (Kimbrough, Bowen and Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper) log 26 hours and 41 minutes outside. It was the 118th spacewalk in support of space station assembly (for a total of 745 hours and 29 minutes), and the 90th to originate from the ISS itself.


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Flight Day 12:

The STS-126 crew had the chance to sleep in this morning, waking at 8:25 a.m. CST, about 30 minutes later than normal. When they did awake, it was to the song "Fever".

"Hey, that was great music. It's always nice to wake up to the sounds of Bandella and your wife singing," replied Don Pettit.

Never know how much I love you,
never know how much I care,
when you put your arms around me,
I give you fever that's so hard to bare.

You give me fever
when you kiss me,
fever when you hold me tight.
Fever --
In the morning,
Fever all through the night.

Everybody's got the fever,
That is something you all know,
Fever isn't such a new thing,
Fever started long ago.

This was Bandella's second wake-up song, having earlier sang "Summertime" on Flight Day 7. In addition to Michi Pettit, members of the group include astronauts Steve Robinson, Chris Hadfield and Cady Coleman.

Overnight, two check-out tests of the STS-126 and ISS crews' handiwork have proved initial success.

After several days troubleshooting early shut downs by their urine processor assembly, part of the water recovery system that will provide drinking water for future six-member station crews, the centrifuge-driven device completed a nominal four-hour run.

"Not to spoil it, but I think up here we're feeling, the appropriate words are 'Yippee!'" exclaimed ISS commander Mike Fincke.

"There will be dancing later," Mission Control replied.

Much later, as flight controllers needed to monitor vibrations aboard the ISS during a test of the starboard solar alpha rotary joint (SARJ), as for the first time in a year it was set to 'autotrack' the Sun. The joint, which moves the station's starboard-side solar arrays, was cleaned and serviced over the course of four spacewalks by the STS-126 crew members.

Mission control began the joint rotating at 4:55 a.m. CST. The test was conducted as the crew slept to avoid them inadvertently creating vibrations that might be recorded by the station's sensors monitoring the SARJ.

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The station and shuttle crews benefited today from having an extra day in orbit.

The urine processor assembly ran successfully for three cycles since being modified by the crew. The astronauts were able to get samples processed through the UPA and water processing facility and dispensed through the potable water dispenser for return with Endeavour.

The station's crew will continue to collect samples over the next few months to ensure that the water recovery system is working properly before being used for consumption.

Meanwhile, the starboard solar alpha rotary joint returned to its abbreviated operations mode after completing two full test orbits tracking the Sun. Preliminary results show a reduction in the SARJ's operating current from .9 to as low as .17 amps, an indication that it is moving more freely than before.

Engineers plan to continue monitoring the starboard SARJ's performance. They also saw a reduction in the port SARJ's current use, due to its preventative lubrication.

The station and shuttle crews spent most of Tuesday completing the final transfer and packing of the Leonardo logistics module. They also installed the Harmony common berthing mechanism controller, which is one of the final steps before closing Leonardo for its move back into Endeavour's payload bay on Wednesday.

The STS-126 crew went to bed at 10:55 p.m. CST and will be awakened at 6:55 a.m.

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NASA today released the video from the two STS-126 solid rocket boosters:

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Flight Day 13: Closing the cargo carrier...

Jethro Tull's "North Sea Oil" was played for mission specialist Steve Bowen as this morning's wake-up call for the STS-126 crew.

Black and viscous bound to cure blue lethargy.
Sugar-plum petroleum for energy.
Tightrope-balanced payments need a small reprieve
Oh, please believe we want to be
in North Sea...
in North Sea Oil.
"I want to thank my son for picking that," replied Bowen, "he seems to have taken to some older music with that one."

Endeavour's crew will take the first step towards their departure from the space station today, packing the last items into the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistic Module (MPLM), closing its hatch and returning the canister to the shuttle's payload bay.

The MPLM is scheduled to be de-mated from the Harmony node at 3:05 p.m. CST and berthed in the cargo bay by 5:20 p.m.

Read about how the MPLM gave shape to the crew insignia in: Astronauts and artists shape mission patch

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The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is now back inside Endeavour's payload bay, courtesy the robotic arm work by STS-126 mission specialists Don Pettit and Shane Kimbrough.

Inside the cargo canister is 3,642 pounds of equipment and refuse transferred from the ISS to be returned to the ground.


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Flight Day 14: Thanksgiving farewell...

"Hold on Tight" by Electric Light Orchestra was played for Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper as she and her Endeavour crewmates awoke.

Hold on tight to your dream,
Hold on tight to your dream,
When you see your ship go sailing,
When you feel your heart is breaking,
Hold tight to your dream.

It's a long time to be gone,
Time just rolls on and on,
When you need a shoulder to cry on,
When you get so sick of trying,
Just hold tight to your dream.

"Thank you for that great song on this Thanksgiving day," replied Piper. "We can give thanks for what we have and never stop dreaming."

The STS-126 and Expedition 18 crew members will have time off Thursday to spend the first part of the day celebrating Thanksgiving together.

They will then bid each other farewell at 4:55 p.m. CST, as they separate into their respective spacecraft and close the hatches in preparation for Endeavour undocking on Friday morning.

On the menu: smoked turkey, green beans and mushrooms, candied yams, cranapple dessert and cornbread dressing (actual space food pictured).

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Don Pettit offered a special "Saturday Morning Science" toast to Thanksgiving:

And Mission Control added their own special touch:

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The hatches between space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station's Harmony node were closed at 6:31 p.m. CST, in preparation for the orbiter undocking at 8:47 a.m. on Friday.

The hatch closure marked an end to the longest period that two spacecraft have had their common hatches open in history. In total, the ISS Expedition 18 and STS-126 crew members spent 11 days and 15 minutes together, upgrading the outpost from a three-bedroom, one bathroom home to a five bedroom, two bathroom home (though not all of the new racks have been installed just yet).

Before the astronauts separated into their respective spacecraft, they said goodbye to each other during a traditional farewell ceremony.

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Flight Day 15: Undocking Endeavour...
And in the end we shall achieve in time,
The thing they call divine,
When all the stars will smile for me,
When all is well and well is all for all,
And forever after,
Maybe in the meantime wait and see.

We love the all the all of you,
Our lands are green and skies are blue,
When all in all we're just like you,
We love the all of you.

"My wife first sent me that song when I was deployed on the other side of the world," radioed STS-126 pilot and U.S. Air Force Colonel Eric Boe, who flew 55 combat missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch. "It's nice to hear it again now that I am deployed off the Earth."

The wake-up song, played at 4:55 a.m. CST, was "In The Meantime" by Space Hog.

"It's a good day for an undock and fly-around!" added Boe.

Endeavour is set to undock from the International Space Station at 8:47 a.m. CST as the two craft pass just to the east of Taiwan.

With Boe at the controls of Endeavour, he will conduct a fly-around of the station to enable the crew to capture photos and video of the outpost.

The final separation burn is set for 11:14 a.m.

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Space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 8:47 a.m. CST as the two craft flew 221 miles above Asia, just to the east of Taiwan.

"Endeavour departing," announced former STS-126 crew member and new Expedition 18 flight engineer Sandy Magnus, after ringing the station's bell.

"Thank you Sandy," replied Endeavour's commander Chris Ferguson. "It was great working with you guys."

"Thanks for the incredible makeover and leaving the station in fantastic shape," radioed ISS commander Mike Fincke. "Thanks to your heroic efforts, we are one step closer to a six person crew. So from the International Space Station, godspeed and safe landing."

"Even from 25 feet you look better," replied Ferguson.

"Thanks Fergie, see you in a few months. Safe landing," said Magnus.

The STS-126 crew logged 11 days, 16 hours, and 46 minutes of docked activities with the space station, just four hours shy of the record duration set by STS-123 last March.

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"We saw you pass right below us and you look, as far as we can tell, clean and dry from the top," reported ISS commander Mike Fincke to the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour. "Mighty spectacular imagery we got as you flew over the mouth of the Amazon river."

"So good job and good flying to Eric," added Fincke, noting STS-126 pilot Eric Boe at Endeavour's aft controls for the flyaround.

"We concur, you guys look great this perspective, too," radioed STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson in reply, "and Eric's doing a great job."

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The STS-126 crew on space shuttle Endeavour successfully executed the first two of three separation burns moving them further away from the International Space Station.

As originally planned, the third burn would have occurred at 11:14 a.m. CST. Mission managers have chosen to delay that third separation burn until about 5:22 p.m. in an effort to avoid the shuttle from coming too close to a small piece of space debris, part of a grouping of pieces from an old Russian satellite.

The standard "late" inspection of Endeavour's heat shield, using the shuttle's robotic arm and its Orbital Boom Sensor System extension, remains as scheduled for this afternoon. Crew members Eric Boe, Don Pettit and Shane Kimbrough may start that camera survey a bit early though, as a result of the postponed third separation burn.

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Endeavour's crew performed their third and final separation burn successfully at 6:22 p.m. as had been planned after flight controllers determined that the earlier scheduled burn would have brought the orbiter within seven miles (11 kilometers) of a piece of a Russian satellite.

The astronauts also completed the standard late inspection of the shuttle's thermal protection system using Endeavour's robotic arm and its boom extension. Though there were no obvious problems seen, it will take some time for engineers to clear the orbiter for landing.

The reentry flight control team will also be evaluating weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center before scheduling Endeavour's return to Earth. There are opportunities for the shuttle to land on Sunday in both Florida and at Edwards Air Force Base, CA.

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Flight Day 16: Preparing to come home...

Today's wake-up song was "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" played for returning station crew member Greg Chamitoff.

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
how I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
how I wonder what you are.

Twinkle, twinkle little bat,
how I wonder what you're at.
Up above the world you fly,
like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle little bat,
how I wonder what you're at.

"That song reminds me of home, reminds me of my kids who I've been thinking so much about lately. We sing that song together very often going to bed so that's great," said Chamitoff. "Thanks for that and thanks for my family for sending me that music to play for me this morning."

"And we're all thinking about going home today. It's going to be a great day, last great day in space for everyone," continued Chamitoff. "We're really looking forward to this day and enjoying the rest of our time up here."

"And thinking of home. It's been great to have an amazing home away from home for the past... my wife was just telling me it'll be 182 days for me today away from home. But a lot of people have to spend time away from home but I was lucky to have a really spectacular place to live for the last past half year."

Endeavour's astronauts will spend the day preparing for their return home.

Commander Chris Ferguson and pilot Eric Boe, with help from mission specialist Steve Bowen, will check out the flight control surfaces, including the rudder and the wing flaps at 9:40 a.m. CST. Those surfaces will guide Endeavour through the atmosphere.

Immediately afterward, the astronauts will test fire the reaction control system thrusters that will control the shuttle's orientation as it descends.

That will be followed by a 30 minute deorbit briefing for all crew members, beginning at 11:10 a.m.

All seven astronauts will then take a break at 11:40 a.m. to take questions from CNN, KRON-TV of San Francisco and KATU-TV of Portland, Oregon.

Boe and mission specialist Shane Kimbrough will then begin deployment of the small Pico Satellite Solar Cell Testbed at 2:35 p.m. They will remotely release the springs that will push the Department of Defense's Picosat into orbit for several months while it tests new types of solar cells.

The crew will finish their day by setting up Chamitoff's recumbent seat and stowing the shuttle's Ku-band antenna.

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While test firing the forward reaction control system thrusters in preparation for their use during reentry, Endeavour's crew noticed and photographed a 2 by 5 inch piece of "mylar-looking orange" debris departing the shuttle.

Don Pettit noted that the piece, which had "little buttons with thread", was seen behind the orbiter's rudder area, but it may have originated from the payload bay.

Update: The object was identified by mission control as a temperature pressure label from inside the payload bay.

Meanwhile, NASA's mission managers have cleared the orbiter's heat shield for entry.

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STS-126 pilot Eric Boe, working with mission specialist Shane Kimbrough, deployed the Defense Department's small Pico Satellite Solar Cell Testbed at 2:34 p.m. CST, remotely triggering the release of springs that pushed the Picosat into orbit for several months.

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As Endeavour's crew prepares for landing, mission managers are closely monitoring a cold front that could affect Sunday's entry and landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Forecasters are predicting the front could bring rain, possible thunderstorms and crosswinds that would violate the shuttle's flight rules into the Florida spaceport area. The two landing opportunities are at 12:19 p.m. and 1:54 p.m. CST.

Should mission managers wave off landing in Florida, there are two opportunities at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 3:25 p.m. and 5 p.m. The California forecast is favorable.

"For Sunday, we're going to have KSC and Edwards both called up," said entry flight director Bryan Lunney. "We would be willing to go land on Sunday at Edwards if we look ahead into the forecast and determine Monday is not worth waiting for in terms of going to KSC."

Deorbit Opportunities for STS-126 (all times are CST)

DateOrbitSiteTIGLanding
Sun., Nov. 30248KSC11:14:27 a.m.12:19:28 p.m.
249KSC12:50:32 p.m.1:54:58 p.m.
250EDW2:20:41 p.m.3:25:12 p.m.
251EDW3:57:13 p.m.5:00:37 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 1263KSC10:05 a.m.11:08 a.m.
264KSC11:40 a.m.12:43 p.m.
265EDW1:11 p.m.2:14 p.m.
NOR1:12 p.m.2:15 p.m.
266EDW2:46 p.m.3:49 p.m.
NOR2:48 p.m.3:51 p.m.
267EDW4:23 p.m.5:25 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 2279KSC10:30 a.m.11:33 a.m.
280NOR12:02 p.m.1:05 p.m.
KSC12:06 p.m.1:08 p.m.
281EDW1:35 p.m.2:38 p.m.
NOR1:37 p.m.2:40 p.m.
282EDW3:11 p.m.4:14 p.m.
TIG = Time of Ignition for Deorbit Burn
KSC = Kennedy Space Center
EDW = Edwards Air Force Base
NOR = Northrup Flight Strip (White Sands)

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Flight Day 17: Coming home...

STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson and his crew of six on-board space shuttle Endeavour were awakened at 3:55 a.m. CST by the theme to the 1976 movie "Rocky", "Gonna Fly Now" as composed by Bill Conti.

"That's a great song with its roots in Philadelphia," radioed Ferguson, referencing his own hometown and the setting of the Sylvester Stallone film.

Endeavour's astronauts are beginning what is scheduled to be their last day in space.

Their first landing opportunity is at Kennedy Space Center on their 248th orbit of Earth. After a deorbit burn at 11:14 a.m. CST, the orbiter's ground track would take it along the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, across the Gulf of Mexico and across the Florida coast south of Fort Myers for a landing at 12:19 p.m.

A second KSC opportunity would follow one orbit later. The deorbit burn would be at 12:50 p.m. and a landing at 1:54 p.m. That track would take Endeavour across Mexico, cross its Gulf Coast near Tampico, then east across Florida to the space center.

Florida weather is questionable. Forecasts predict that rain, perhaps thunderstorms, and crosswinds could prevent a landing.

There are two opportunities to land at Edwards Air Force Base in California today, as well. The first, on orbit 250, would see a deorbit burn at 2:20 p.m. and a landing at 3:25 p.m. For the second, on orbit 251, the burn would be at 3:57 p.m. and a touch down at 5:00 p.m.

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Citing observed and forecasted crosswinds gusting up to about 19 knots violating landing weather criteria, capcom Alan Poindexter informed STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson that flight controllers have decided to wave off the first opportunity for Endeavour to touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility this afternoon.

"Fergie, the weather observation and the forecast at KSC is no-go for crosswinds," radioed Poindexter at 8:16 a.m. CST. "So we're going to wave off this opportunity."

"Thanks for the early call," responded Ferguson.

Endeavour's crew are preparing for their next landing opportunity, which would see a deorbit burn at 12:49:39 p.m. CST bringing them to a 1:54 p.m. touchdown in Florida, should the weather cooperate.

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With weather conditions worsening at Kennedy Space Center, flight controllers have decided to wave off today's second and final landing opportunity in Florida.

"It doesn't look like a good day for Florida today," radioed capcom Alan Poindexter to commander Chris Ferguson. "The weather again is observed 'no-go' and forecast 'no-go' for the second opportunity, so we've decided to wave off KSC altogether today."

"However we would like you to press ahead in the deorbit prep checklist," Poindexter added, preserving the option to still land Endeavour today at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

"Hey, I know you guys are working the weather really hard down there. I think you're doing a great job," replied Ferguson.

"Our goal is keep you out of your suits unnecessarily as long as we can, so we'll make another call here prior to the crew getting suited up whether or not to continue with the deorbit prep checklist," Poindexter said.

"If Edwards is in the cards, it's in the cards. We're all ready wherever you send us," responded Ferguson.

"We are looking at tomorrow's forecast at KSC and whether or not we'll have an opportunity there tomorrow, and that will be the decision point for Edwards today," explained Poindexter.

At 10:08 a.m., flight controllers gave the STS-126 crew a 'go' for closing Endeavour's payload bay doors, though a decision whether to land at Edwards at 3:25 p.m. CST is still pending.

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Space shuttle Endeavour with the STS-126 crew will land in California today.

"Based on the forecast at KSC tomorrow, which is similar, the winds are forecast to be similar as they are today at that 'no-go' forecast in addition to some upper level wind concerns, we're going to elect to press ahead with the Edwards opportunity today," capcom Alan Poindexter told STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson at 11:00 a.m. CST.

"It is what it is," replied Ferguson. "We'll see you on the ground in California."

"We're looking at a picture out at Edwards right now and it's beautiful, great visibility and just a real nice day out at Edwards," Poindexter added.

With that call, Endeavour's crew will prepare to fire a deorbit burn at 2:19 p.m. CST, bringing them to a touchdown on Edwards' temporary landing strip at 3:25 p.m. CST.

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STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson fired Endeavour's orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engines at 2:19 p.m. CST for two minutes and 54 seconds. The de-orbit burn will slow the shuttle by 200 miles per hour, bringing it back into the Earth's atmosphere and placing it on the path to land at 3:25 p.m. at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

"Endeavour, Houston, good burn, no trim required," reported capcom Alan Poindexter.

Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Steve Bowen and Shane Kimbrough are sitting on the flight deck for the entry phase of STS-126.

Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper is on the lower level closest to the hatch and Don Pettit is to her right. Greg Chamitoff, who has spent the past six months living on the International Space Station, is on the far right side of the middeck.

Chamitoff, like all returning station crew members, is strapped into a seat with his feet pointed toward the ceiling, making his transition back to gravity easier.

About an hour before the burn, Endeavour's crew donned their orange pressure suits and began "fluid loading" to ease their re-adaptation to gravity after 16 days in space.

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Endeavour began encountering the first traces of Earth's thickening atmosphere at 2:52 p.m. CST.

The orbiter's thermal protection system will experience its highest temperatures for about 10 minutes beginning at about 3:00 p.m.

The shuttle will slow to about 2.5 times the speed of sound at 3:17 p.m., when it is about 80,000 feet above the planet -- more than twice as high as an airliner typically flies. At 3:19 p.m., Endeavour will slow to Mach 1.

Commander Chris Ferguson will guide Endeavour through a series of roll maneuvers which help slow the spacecraft throughout the descent. The process culminates with Endeavour taking a wide turn over Dryden Flight Research Center to line up precisely with the runway for a landing at 3:25 p.m.


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Space shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth on Sunday, completing a 16-day "extreme home improvement" mission to upgrade and service the International Space Station.

The shuttle touched down at 3:25 p.m. CST at Edwards Air Force Base in California, after being waived twice from landing at the Kennedy Space Center due to concerns over strong crosswinds and thunderstorms in the vicinity of the Florida landing facility.

"Wheels stop, Endeavour!" announced capcom Alan Poindexter. "Welcome back, that was a great way to finish a fantastic flight, Fergie."

"Hey, we're happy to be here in California!" replied commander Chris Ferguson.

Ferguson led his crew to a safe return after they worked together to expand the ISS from a three-bedroom, one bathroom house to a five bedroom, two bathroom home.

While docked at the station, they performed four spacewalks to clean and service the rotary joints that permit the outpost's twin solar array wings to track the sun and they delivered the station a new resident flight engineer while providing her replacement a ride home.

"The crew of Expedition 18 would like to extend a congratulations to the crew of Endeavour and the entire team that made that incredible home makeover mission possible," radioed station commander Michael Fincke after watching the landing from on-board the ISS. "What a great crew and what a great team we have. We're really proud of everyone."

Ferguson's "great" crew included pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Don Pettit, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Steve Bowen and Shane Kimbrough. ISS flight engineer Sandy Magnus launched with the crew on November 14. Greg Chamitoff returned in her place after working for 183 days aboard the outpost.

Endeavour's touchdown in California marked the 100th daytime landing by a space shuttle, the 52nd touchdown at Edwards, and the first use of the "temporary runway" built while the main landing strip was under refurbishment.

"Congratulations on the first orbiter landing on Edwards temp runway," commended Poindexter.

"We have about 800 feet of it left, so we didn't quite use it all," said Ferguson, referring to the runway's 12,000 feet.

At 15 days, 20 hours, 29 minutes and 37 seconds, STS-126 was Endeavour's longest mission out of its 22 flights. The shuttle traveled 6,615,109 miles during its 250 orbits.

Did you see Endeavour land? Were you following the mission? Share your thoughts.

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Landing times:
  • Main gear touchdown
    3:25:06 p.m. CST
    15 days, 20 hours, 29 minutes and 37 seconds
  • Nose gear touchdown
    3:25:21 p.m. CST
    15 days, 20 hours, 29 minutes and 52 seconds
  • Wheels stop
    3:26:06 p.m. CST
    15 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds

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Postflight crew walkaround and commander's remarks:

Continued on page three...


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