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  STS-131/Discovery: ISS Experiment Express [Flight Day Journal] (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   STS-131/Discovery: ISS Experiment Express [Flight Day Journal]
Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Eleven

Module move to continue Friday (con't)

After dealing with a balky set of bolt controllers, the combined crew of space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station (ISS) removed the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module from its port on the station today.

The crew closed Leonardo's hatch at 2:38 a.m. CDT Thursday, but put the removal on hold when Mission Control saw unusual readings on the control panel assemblies that operate the 16 remote-control bolts used to secure the pressurized cargo carrier to the Harmony node port.

The crew disconnected and reconnected all 36 of the connectors that provide power and data to the controllers, and in the process found a small pin that had been broken. They secured the pin, which was not part of the electrical connections, with Kapton tape to ensure it did not interfere with the bolts' operation.

Mission Control conducted additional troubleshooting, and the bolts were released at 3:19 p.m. CDT.

Leonardo, making is final round-trip to the station before becoming a permanent logistics module for the station later this year, was unberthed at 3:24 p.m., about seven hours later than planned. The crew then used the station's robotic arm to maneuver the module into position above Discovery's payload bay. Leonardo will remain in this "low hover" position overnight, and the crew will spend about an hour and a half finishing the job of using Canadarm2 to latch it in the shuttle's cargo bay on Friday.

The delay in removing Leonardo resulted in a later-than-planned bedtime for the crew, so they will be allowed to sleep in for about an hour until 12:21 a.m. Friday.


Flight Day 11 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 11 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Twelve

Leonardo latched, crew conducts final inspection

Space shuttle Discovery's crew began the day by packing the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo securely into the shuttle's payload bay before conducting one last inspection of their spacecraft's heat shield.

Yesterday's delay removing Leonardo from the International Space Station's Harmony node resulted in a late wake-up for the astronauts.

The crew was awakened at 12:21 a.m. CDT Friday to the theme from "Stargate, played for mission specialist Rick Mastracchio.

"We've got a lot of work accomplished up here and we still got a little more," radioed Mastracchio. "We look forward to coming home soon."

Credit: NASA TV

After a seven-hour delay, the result of a balky set of bolt controllers, the crew maneuvered Leonardo into a "low hover" position above Discovery's payload bay for the night on Thursday. Using the station's robotic arm, Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki, both mission specialists, lowered Leonardo into the payload bay at 2:15 a.m. CDT.

Pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Wilson then used the shuttle's robotic arm and its orbiter boom sensor system extension to survey Discovery's heat shield.

While usually scheduled for after undocking, this "late inspection" for micrometeoroid damage was performed while the shuttle was still berthed as a result of Discovery's failed Ku-Band antenna. The data collected from the survey was sent to Mission Control for analysis using the station's high bandwidth communications.


Flight Day 12 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 12 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Thirteen

Undocking day

The astronauts aboard space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station (ISS) will part company Saturday morning wrapping up the STS-131 mission that brought 7.6 tons of supplies and equipment to the orbiting laboratory, including a new crew sleeping quarters, a new ammonia coolant tank and four experiment racks.


STS-131 and ISS Expedition 23 crews. Credit: NASA

The shuttle crew was awakened at 11:21 p.m. CDT Friday to the strains of "Joy performed by the Newsboys. The song was selected for pilot Jim Dutton, who after undocking will fly Discovery around the station so his fellow crew members can photo and video document the outpost's exterior condition.

"To all the great folks at Mission Control and on the ground at the various centers who have helped us out throughout this mission, it's just been an incredible experience," radioed Dutton, a test pilot for the U.S. Air Force who has flown more than 30 aircraft.
The crews will bid one another farewell and close the hatches at 4:56 a.m. The docking latches will open at 7:52 a.m. allowing Discovery to drift free. Dutton will then guide Discovery on a fly-around of the station at a distance of 400 feet, with final separation from the orbiting outpost expected at 9:35 a.m.

Discovery's first landing opportunity at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is at 7:51 a.m. on Monday.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Thirteen

Bidding farewell

The STS-131 and Expedition 23 crew members divided into their respective spacecraft Saturday morning but not before both missions' commanders exchanged remarks and embraces.
"This is time when we have to say goodbye to our friends and colleagues," said space station commander Oleg Kotov. "Thank you very much, we're really grateful for your help and your job you did for us."

"This has just been a wonderful stay for the shuttle Discovery crew," replied STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter. "It was a great docked mission and very successful. We had just three outstanding EVAs, a lot of great robotics and the transfer team was just fantastic."

"We hope we didn't tear up your house too much. We tried to a good job of cleaning when we left. If we leave anything behind you can bring it with you home," he noted.


Credit: NASA TV

With the shuttle's last seven-person crew to visit the station onboard, the hatch to the orbiter was closed at 5:30 a.m. CDT, ten days, one hour and 19 minutes after it was first opened on Flight Day 3.

In addition to breaking up the record-tying 13-member joint crew, the hatch closure also marked the division of the largest group of women (four) and the largest number of Japanese astronauts (two) on one spacecraft.


Credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Thirteen

Discovery departing

Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station at 7:52 a.m. CDT on Saturday, while orbiting 217 miles above New Guinea. The two spacecraft were berthed for a total of ten days, five hours and eight minutes.
"Dex, you and your crew were excellent guests, we loved having you here," said station flight engineer T.J. Creamer after the shuttle separated. "You helped us leave the station in a better place then when you got here. Come back soon."

"Thanks T.J., we enjoyed every minute of it," replied Discovery commander Alan "Dex" Poindexter. "Thanks for the great hospitality. We'll talk to you soon."

"Safe landing," said Creamer.

Weather permitting, Discovery will perform a deorbit burn at 6:43 a.m. CDT Monday, leading to a landing at 7:51 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Thirteen

Orbiting the outpost

Reaching a distance of 400 feet from the International Space Station, STS-131 pilot Jim Dutton began Discovery's fly-around of the outpost.


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Thirteen

Spasiba, adios and sayonara

The fly-around of the space station complete, space shuttle Discovery fired the first of two separation burns just after 9:00 a.m. CDT.
"Station, Discovery, dasvidaniya," radioed commander Alan Poindexter.

"Adios amigos, sayonara," replied Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi. "Oleg and I took a bunch of great shots of your vehicle and thanks very much for the great memories. See you soon on the ground."

"Thank you so much Soichi, spasiba and arigato," said fellow JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki from Discovery.

Noguchi replied in kind, "Thank you, spasiba, adios and sayonara."

Space station flight controllers in Houston added their goodbye to the shuttle crew.
"It has been an honor and a pleasure to support your activities at the International Space Station," radioed capcom Stan Love. "We wish you all success for the remainder of your flight and a safe journey home. We'll miss hearing you on the loops, but look forward to seeing you back in Houston."

"Thank you and all folks working in the International Space Station flight control room," replied Poindexter. "Thank you so much, we appreciate everything you did to help us with this flight. It was a great success and we had a great time on station. Talk to you guys in a couple of days."


Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Thirteen

Discovery cleared for entry

NASA's Mission Management Team (MMT) has cleared space shuttle Discovery for reentry, having completed their review of the data collected by the crew during the "late inspections" of the orbiter's heat shield on Friday.
"Dex, the MMT has met, they reviewed all the data. You're still good to come back home," radioed capcom Steven "Swanny" Swanson from Mission Control to Discovery's commander Alan "Dex" Poindexter. "The vechicle is in great shape. Good job."

"Hey, thanks for that great news Swanny, we really appreciate it," answered Poindexter. "We appreciate all the hard work that went in to come up with those procedures and then quickly going through all the data. We know it was a lot of work and we appreciate it."

"We look forward to a deorbit burn here in a couple of days," Poindexter concluded.

Weather permitting, Discovery will perform a deorbit burn at 6:43 a.m. CDT Monday, leading to a landing at 7:51 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day: Thirteen

Configuring the cargo bay

Before going to sleep at 3:21 p.m. CDT, Discovery's crew stowed the 50-foot robotic arm extension boom they used to perform the late inspections of the orbiter's heat shield on Friday and retracted the Ku-Band antenna that failed earlier in the flight.

With that, Discovery's payload bay is now clear for its doors to be closed prior to its Monday morning landing.


Flight Day 13 HD Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

Browse NASA's STS-131 Flight Day 13 Photo Gallery

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Flight Day: Fourteen

Preparing to come home

Preparations for landing take center stage Sunday as the astronauts on space shuttle Discovery wrap up a 10-day stay at the International Space Station that included three spacewalks and delivery of more than seven tons of equipment and supplies.

The crew awoke at 11:21 p.m. CDT Saturday to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," played for mission specialist Stephanie Wilson, who concluded her third trip to the ISS on Discovery. Wilson flew on orbiter OV-103 for STS-121 in July 2006 and for STS-120 in October 2007.

"It certainly is a wonderful world, especially from this vantage point," radioed Wilson. "We had a wonderful time at the International Space Station and enjoyed our time with the crew. We're looking forward to packing up today and coming home to see our family and friends tomorrow. It's been a great mission and a wonderful journey."
Wilson, together with STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and fellow mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki are scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 7:48 a.m. on Monday.

On Sunday, Poindexter, Dutton and Metcalf-Lindenburger will check out Discovery's flight control systems and steering jets for the journey back to Earth.

At 6:36 a.m., the crew will take part in audio interviews with WBZ-AM in Boston, the Associated Press, and KEZI-TV in Portland. Wilson is from Pittsfield, Mass., and Dutton is from Eugene, Oregon.

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Flight Day: Fourteen

Ready to return

Space shuttle Discovery's crew spent much of their last full scheduled day in space getting ready to come home after their mission to the International Space Station.

STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Clay Anderson and JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki are scheduled to land onboard Discovery at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, if the weather cooperates.

Forecasts for Kennedy however are not promising, calling for high overcast and two layers of scattered clouds, as well as a chance of showers in the area. If needed, there are opportunities at Kennedy and at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Tuesday.

On Saturday morning, Poindexter, Dutton and Metcalf-Lindenburger powered up Discovery's flight control system and tested the flaps and rudder that will control the shuttle's flight as a glider once it enters the atmosphere. They then test-fired the reaction control system jets that will control the orbiter's orientation as it prepares for reentry.

All seven astronauts stowed items in Discovery's cabin in preparation for landing.

The first Kennedy landing opportunity on the mission's 222nd orbit would see a deorbit burn at 6:43 a.m. CDT for the 7:48 a.m. landing. For the second opportunity on orbit 223, the deorbit burn would be at 8:17 a.m. for a landing at 9:23 a.m. CDT.


Flight Day 14 Highlights. Credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day: Fifteen

Landing day, weather permitting

The astronauts onboard space shuttle Discovery are getting ready to conclude the STS-131 mission, weather permitting, with a planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:48 a.m. CDT on Monday.

The crew's wake-up call at 11:21 p.m. Sunday, "The Star Spangled Banner," was played for commander Alan Poindexter.

"It's a great day to be in space," radioed Poindexter. "We're hopefully looking to have some good weather and perhaps get home today."
If given the go to reenter the atmosphere Monday morning, Discovery will fly over the northern Pacific Ocean on a course that will take it over much of North America before arriving in Florida.


Credit: NASA

The first Kennedy landing opportunity on the mission's 222nd orbit would see a deorbit burn at 6:43 a.m. CDT for the 7:48 a.m. landing.

For the second opportunity on orbit 223, the deorbit burn would be at 8:17 a.m. for a landing at 9:23 a.m.


Credit: NASA

Forecasts for the Kennedy are not promising however, calling for high overcast and two layers of scattered clouds, as well as a chance of showers in the area.

If needed, there are landing opportunities at Kennedy at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Tuesday.

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Flight Day: Fifteen

Configuring Discovery for its return home

With the weather at their landing site in Florida showing some signs of improving, Discovery's astronauts have begun reconfiguring their spacecraft for their return home.

The shuttle's two payload bay doors were closed at 4:03 a.m. CDT and STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter, pilot James Dutton and mission specialist Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger began transitioning Discovery's flight controls from OPS-2, the software used for on-orbit operations, to OPS-3, used for reentry and landing, ten minutes later.

The astronauts also started suiting up, donning the orange pressure suits they last wore during launch.

All their preparations are leading to Discovery performing a deorbit burn at 6:43 a.m. CDT, setting up a 7:48 a.m. landing, should the weather cooperate and Mission Control give them the "go."

"We're currently observed 'no go' and forecast 'no go,'" capcom Rick Sturckow informed the crew. "Looking at the weather picture on the map on the scene, there is some cause for optimism for both the first and second KSC opportunities."

"The weather is in the southeast quadrant. It's generally kinda moving east and we will continue to monitor."

At present, there are still rain showers within the 30 mile vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility that would prevent Discovery's return. The cloud ceilings have improved though, and are currently within the limits.

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Flight Day: Fifteen

Cloud cover causing concern

Mission Control has asked Discovery's crew to delay fluid loading -- consuming liquids to aid in their readjustment to gravity -- while they continue to assess the weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center.
"We have not made a final decision yet on the first [landing] opportunity, but we're going to sit here and look at it for about another 15 minutes or so," radioed capcom Rick Sturckow.

"So we do want you to continue holding off on the fluid loading and we'll more words in just a few minutes."

In addition to sporadic rain showers, the cloud cover over the Shuttle Landing Facility has grown thicker, with a lower deck that has moved in at 2,500 feet.

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Flight Day: Fifteen

Weather waves off first landing attempt

Entry flight director Bryan Lunney decided to wave off the first landing opportunity for space shuttle Discovery due to precipitation and cloud cover at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

The STS-131 astronauts' next and last attempt to come home today begins at 8:17 a.m. CDT with the deorbit burn, setting up a 9:23 a.m. landing.


Vehicle Assembly Building disappears into the low clouds. Credit: collectSPACE

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Flight Day: Fifteen

Slow sips as showers dissipate

As Mission Control continues to watch the weather, the STS-131 crew has been given a "go" by Mission Control to begin fluid loading.
"The [visibility] is improving," capcom Rick Sturckow relayed. "There is still a shower within 30 [miles] but it may possibly dissipate."

"We'd like for the crew to judiciously begin fluid loading. We intend to have you go through the entry checklist... and we'll be updating you on the fluid loading as we get through that."

"We understand," replied Alan Poindexter, Discovery's commander. "We'll start slowly doing the fluid loading and wait for your further word."

"Fluid loading" aids the astronauts' readjustment to gravity. The crew was given a choice of drinks, as indicated by the table below.

Fluid loading chart. Credit: NASA

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Flight Day: Fifteen

"No go" for going home

Discovery will not be landing today at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"Folks really worked it hard down here and there was a lot of cause for optimism with [clouds] breaking up all around the [Shuttle Landing Facility] but at the end of the day, it's just too low of a ceiling of visibility," advised capcom Rick Sturckow from Mission Control. "So we're no go for the deorbit burn."

"We know how hard you guys worked it today and we appreciate everything," replied Discovery's commander Alan Poindexter. "We'll be hopeful for better weather tomorrow."

On Tuesday, entry flight director Bryan Lunney will be looking to land Discovery at either Kennedy or Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The first opportunity into Florida begins with a deorbit burn at 5:28:50 a.m. CDT for a landing at 6:34:08 a.m. A second Kennedy attempt has the burn at 7:02:59 a.m. with a touchdown at 8:08:37 a.m.

The first California landing is at 8:01:17 a.m. CDT, starting with a deorbit burn at 6:56:29 a.m. A second Edwards approach begins at 8:30:59 a.m. for a 9:35:37 a.m. arrival. The third and final attempt of the day would bring Discovery to the west coast at 11:11:06 a.m. after a engine firing at 10:05:39 a.m. CDT.


Credit: NASA

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Flight Day: Sixteen

On the road again

Space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 crew is prepared to return home Tuesday, as mission managers closely monitor weather that could affect their entry and landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The crew spent another day in orbit after two landing opportunities at KSC were foiled by clouds and rain in the area. Forecasts call for Florida conditions to improve Tuesday and the weather in California looks good.

At 10:21 p.m. CDT on Monday, mission control played "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson as the wake-up call for commander Alan Poindexter, pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Stephanie Wilson, Clayton Anderson and Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

"We're having a great time up here," said Poindexter. "We're looking forward to landing though. Hopefully, the weather will work out and we'll come home today."
Discovery's crew will have two more opportunities to land at Kennedy today, as well as three at Edwards Air Force Base in California.


Credit: NASA

The first Kennedy opportunity would see a deorbit burn at 5:28 a.m. with a landing at 6:34 a.m. For the second opportunity, the deorbit burn at 7:02 a.m. would lead to a landing 8:08 a.m.

For Edwards, the first opportunity deorbit burn would be at 6:56 a.m. with landing at 8:01 a.m. The next would have a deorbit burn at 8:30 a.m. and a landing at 9:35 a.m. while the third would begin with a deorbit burn at 10:05 a.m. leading to a landing at 11:11 a.m. CDT.


Credit: NASA

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Flight Day: Sixteen

Weather is "go" for Kennedy

Having closed Discovery's payload bay doors at 2:52 a.m. CDT and begun transitioning the shuttle's flight deck software from orbit to entry configuration, the STS-131 crew received the "good news" from Mission Control that the weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida was looking good for their first landing opportunity at 6:34:08 a.m.
"Good news, there's a 'go' forecast at KSC," capcom Rick Sturckow advised Discovery's commander Alan Poindexter. "No precipitation concern inside of 30 miles, all the shower activity is kind of to the east of that 30-mile circle."

"The main concern is going to be fog. Fog is not in the forecast, but that's what we're having Fergie look at for the T-38 flight," said Sturckow, referring to deputy chief astronaut Chris Ferguson, who's assessing the weather by flying approaches in a T-38 jet.

"Thanks a lot," Poindexter replied. "That sounds like a great forecast."

If the forecast holds, then Poindexter will perform a deorbit burn using Discovery's orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engines at 5:28:50 a.m. CDT.

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Flight Day: Sixteen

"Awesome trip in"

Astronaut Rick "CJ" Sturckow, serving as capcom, or spacecraft communicator, in Mission Control, advised Discovery's commander Alan Poindexter about the path the shuttle will take if approved for a 6:34:08 a.m. CDT landing at Kennedy Space Center.
"It's basically a lot further north and a lot further eastern United States than I would have expected," Sturckow radioed. "You're going to coast in just south of Alaska, you'll be well up into Canada and then you'll crossover into the United States over North Dakota."

"You'll hit Mach 20 at Minnesota, Mach 18 to Mach 17 right over Lake Michigan and right by Chicago, and then coming down over way, way eastern Kentucky at about Mach 14."

"You'll be at the very western tip of Virginia and North Carolina at Mach 12 and then all the way down to Mach 8, right over the middle of South Carolina," Sturckow continued.

"So for that whole first part I described, Mash is going to have a great right wing down view," he said, referring to pilot James "Mash" Dutton. "And then you'll have your roll reversal, now just over like Brunswick, Georgia."

"You'll be heading out over the Atlantic Ocean, a little left wing down there and then you'll fly past Jacksonville well out to sea, and then come in basically from due north into Kennedy Space Center," Sturckow described.

"Thanks for describing that," replied Poindexter. "That is not what we expected but it sounds really exciting and Mash is smiling."

"You're probably going to be in daylight all the way in but you won't pick up daylight on the ground until you get down, probably just eastern United States," said Sturckow. "It just should be an awesome trip in."

"That sounds great CJ, we're looking forward to it. Hopefully the weather will work out for us," Poindexter radioed.


Credit: NASA

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Flight Day: Sixteen

"Weather is far from slam dunk"

Now wearing the orange pressure suits that they wore for launch and starting to strap into their seats, Discovery's crew was given the "go" for fluid loading while Mission Control continues to watch the weather at the Kennedy Space Center.
"Regarding the weather it's pretty far from a slam dunk," reported capcom Rick Sturckow. "We're still considering the fog issue, there's about a four degree temperature dew point spread at 500 feet and there [are] issues with a shower at the very edge of the 30 mile circle."

"So, we are looking at all that stuff and before decision time, we'll update you on how it is developing."

Mission Control is expected to give a provide a "go-no go" decision for the crew's first landing opportunity into Florida at 5:08 a.m. CDT.

"Fluid loading" aids the astronauts' readjustment to gravity. The crew was given a choice of drinks, as indicated by the table below.


Fluid loading chart. Credit: NASA

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Flight Day: Sixteen

First landing opportunity waved

Due to declining trends in the weather conditions, including showers within 30 nautical miles and concern for fog formation, entry flight director Bryan Lunney waved off Discovery's first landing opportunity for 6:34 a.m. CDT at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
"We worked this really hard and we just can't get comfortable with the first opportunity and so we're going to go ahead and wave off," radioed Rick Sturckow from Mission Control. "We are going to continue to look at KSC and Edwards for the next rev."
The crew will re-target for their second landing opportunities on orbit 238 to either KSC or Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Both sites are available on this rev," Sturckow said. "And we have to burn to Edwards before we would get to the KSC burn."

"The Edwards weather is looking good," he reported. "KSC there is still cause for optimism. The sun will be up at KSC by decision time so we'll have a better handle on what's going to happen after that event."

For an 8:01 a.m. CDT landing at Edwards, the deorbit burn would be at 6:56 a.m. For a Kennedy landing at 8:08 a.m., the deorbit burn would be at 7:03 a.m.


Credit: NASA

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posted 04-20-2010 06:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

Focusing on Florida for second landing opportunity

Entry flight director Bryan Lunney has decided to focus on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for Discovery's second landing opportunity on orbit 238.
"There is good cause for optimism for [Kennedy] on this opportunity, so that is our main focus," reported Rick Sturckow from Mission Control.

"The sun is up at the Kennedy Space Center so we've got a lot of visual assets with cameras and satellites... so, we have a much better handle on what is going on. We're still looking at some showers just to the edge of the 30 mile [vicinity] circle and we're monitoring to make sure that any fog concerns are trending in the right direction before we have you get too deep into this."

Lunney is expected to make a "go-no go" decision at about 6:43 a.m. CDT, setting up a deorbit burn at 7:03 a.m. and a landing at 8:08 a.m.

Credit: NASA

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posted 04-20-2010 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

"Go" for going home

Discovery will be returning today to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Flight controllers gave STS-131 mission commander Alan Poindexter the word that he was "go" to perform the deorbit burn that will begin the shuttle's journey back into the Earth's atmosphere.

Poindexter will fire Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines at 7:02:59 a.m. CDT, setting up an 8:08 a.m. touchdown on Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-20-2010 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

Deorbit burn

STS-131 commander Alan Poindexter fired Discovery's twin orbital maneuvering system engines at 7:02:59 a.m. CDT for two minutes and 57 seconds, slowing the orbiter's velocity by 303 feet per second (or about 206 miles per hour) beginning his and his six crewmates' return to Earth.

Discovery is on its way home after a 15-day mission to deliver the 7.5 tons of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Landing on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility is set for 8:08 a.m. CDT.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-20-2010 07:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

Entry interface

Discovery, flying Mach 25 over the North Pacific Ocean with its nose tipped up and its wings level, encountered the first traces of Earth's atmosphere -- known as "entry interface" -- at 7:36 a.m. CDT at an altitude of 400,000 feet.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-20-2010 07:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

S-turns

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 7:41 a.m. CDT rolled Discovery 80 degrees to the left. Its first left-to-right turn at 7:48 a.m. has it pitched 62 degrees to the right.

This series of roll commands gives the shuttle's ground track toward the landing site the appearance of an elongated letter "S".

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Flight Day: Sixteen

Boom! Boom!

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

Commander Alan Poindexter has taken over control of Discovery to guide it through a 200-degree right overhead turn to align the orbiter for an 8:08 a.m. CDT touchdown on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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posted 04-20-2010 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

Touchdown! Discovery lands in Florida

Space shuttle Discovery touched down safely in Florida on Tuesday morning after a 15-day mission to deliver tons of equipment to the International Space Station (ISS).

Commander Alan Poindexter piloted Discovery and his six STS-131 crewmates to a landing at 8:08 a.m. CDT (1208 GMT) on NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"It was a great mission," Poindexter said from onboard Discovery, after the shuttle came to a halt 11,963 feet down the 15,000 foot long runway. "We are glad the International Space Station is stocked up again."

Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Returning with Poindexter were Discovery's pilot James Dutton and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

The astronauts set several firsts and one last during their time aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Together with station crew member Tracy Caldwell, Wilson, Metcalf-Lindenburger, and Yamazaki represented the most women aboard one spacecraft at the same time.

Similarly, Yamazaki and fellow JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, an ISS flight engineer, set the record for the most Japanese in space at one time.

With just three flights remaining scheduled for NASA's 30-year space shuttle program, the astronauts were the last seven-person crew.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Their return saw the culmination of Discovery's STS-131 mission, which temporarily docked on the station the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) to transfer 7.6 tons of equipment, including four refridgerator-size experiment racks and a new crew quarters. Leonardo, making its final round-trip to the ISS -- its next flight will see it permanently installed as a closet and storage space for the station's crew -- brought back to Earth 2.5 tons of science results and trash.

The flight included three spacewalks to replace an ammonia tank assembly, part of the station's coolant system, which services half of the orbiting laboratory's systems. When Discovery departed, the ISS was about 98 percent complete by volume.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

STS-131 completed 238 orbits over the course of 15 days, two hours, 47 minutes and ten seconds while logging 6,232,235 miles.

This was the 74th space shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center and the 57th to land there during the day.

STS-131 marked the penultimate flght for Discovery (OV-103), which is scheduled to launch on its final mission, STS-133, in September 2010.


Credit: NASA TV

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posted 04-20-2010 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

"A fantastic entry..."

After they exited Discovery and took part in the traditional tour around their spacecraft, the STS-131 astronauts, led by commander Alan Poindexter, delivered a few remarks about their mission.

Credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-20-2010 03:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Flight Day: Sixteen

The road to the next mission begins here...

Hours after returning from space, Discovery was towed back to its hangar, Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) to begin being prepared for its next and final mission -- the last of the space shuttle program -- STS-133.


Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman

Do you have comments and/or questions about the STS-131 mission? Post to our mission viewing and commentary thread.


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