Spaceflight Now

The Mission

Orbiter: Discovery
Mission: STS-120
Payload: Harmony module
Launch: Oct. 23, 2007
Time: 11:38 a.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Landing: Nov. 7 @ 1:01 p.m. EST
Site: Shuttle Landing Facility, KSC

Mission Status Center

STS-120 Quick-Look

NASA TV Schedule

Docking Timeline

Master Flight Plan

Key Mission Personnel

Launch Windows Chart

Countdown Timeline

Launch Timeline

Ascent Trajectory Data

Shuttle Flight History

STS-120 Archive

The Crew

Meet the astronauts flying aboard Discovery's STS-120 mission.

Meet the Astronauts

CDR: Pam Melroy

PLT: George Zamka

MS 1: Scott Parazynski

MS 2: Stephanie Wilson

MS 3: Doug Wheelock

MS 4: Paolo Nespoli

Up: Dan Tani

Down: Clay Anderson

Current Demographics


Complete coverage of the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station in deliver the Harmony module and move the P6 solar array truss. Reload for the latest updates.

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With commander Pam Melroy at the controls, the shuttle Discovery plunged back to Earth today, streaking across the heartland of America to a picture-perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center to wrap up an action-packed space station assembly mission.

Read our here.

1909 GMT (2:09 p.m. EST)

All seven astronauts have egressed the orbiter.

The Crew Transport Vehicle -- a modified airport "People Mover" -- is pulled up to the side hatch for the astronauts to enter. The CTV features beds and comfortable seats for the astronauts to receive medical checks after returning to Earth's gravity from the weightless environment of space.

1823 GMT (1:23 p.m. EST)

Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers can watch a video of Discovery's landing here.

1820 GMT (1:20 p.m. EST)

Discovery's three Auxiliary Power Units have been shut down.

1818 GMT (1:18 p.m. EST)

The main engine nozzles have been repositioned, or gimbaled, to the "rain drain" orientation.

1817 GMT (1:17 p.m. EST)

The crew has been given a "go" to climb out of their entry spacesuits.

1814 GMT (1:14 p.m. EST)

On the runway, technicians are using instruments to "sniff" the shuttle's exterior to check for any hazardous vapors.

1811 GMT (1:11 p.m. EST)

The drag chute, landing gear and side hatch pyrotechnics have been safed.

1810 GMT (1:10 p.m. EST)

Here are the landing times in Eastern Standard Time and Mission Elapsed Time, as provided by Mission Control:

Main Gear Touchdown
1:01:18 p.m. EST
MET: 15 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes

Nose Gear Touchdown
1:01:32 p.m. EST
MET: 15 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 14 seconds

Wheels Stop
1:02:13 p.m. EST
MET: 15 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 55 seconds

1807 GMT (1:07 p.m. EST)

The external tank umbilical doors on the shuttle's belly have been opened. And the drag chute and landing gear pyrotechnics have been safed.

1804 GMT (1:04 p.m. EST)

The crew is beginning the post-landing procedures on Discovery.

1802 GMT (1:02 p.m. EST)

WHEEL STOP. Discovery is back safe and sound after its 6.2-million-mile trip.

1801 GMT (1:01 p.m. EST)

Discovery is rolling down Runway 33 having returned home to the Florida spaceport after its two-week mission that delivered the Harmony connecting module to the space station, creating a gateway to the international science laboratories that will be launched during the next three shuttle flights.

1801 GMT (1:01 p.m. EST)

TOUCHDOWN! Main gear touchdown. Drag chute deployed. Nose gear touchdown.

1800 GMT (1:00 p.m. EST)

Landing gear down and locked. Standing by for touchdown on Runway 33.

1800 GMT (1:00 p.m. EST)

Wings are level. Altitude 2,000 feet.

1800 GMT (1:00 p.m. EST)

Altitude 6,000 feet. The shuttle descending at a rate seven times steeper than that of a commercial airliner.

1759 GMT (12:59 p.m. EST)

Field in sight. Commander Pam Melroy can see the runway as she guides Discovery to landing.

1759 GMT (12:59 p.m. EST)

Altitude 15,000 feet as Discovery makes the sweeping turn.

1758 GMT (12:58 p.m. EST)

The shuttle is in the Heading Alignment Cylinder, an imaginary circle to align with Runway 33. Commander Pam Melroy is piloting Discovery through a 195-degree right-overhead turn over the Atlantic to loop around for landing on the southeast to northwest runway.

1758 GMT (12:58 p.m. EST)

The twin sonic booms have crackled across the Cape, announcing Discovery's arrival home.

1757 GMT (12:57 p.m. EST)

Four minutes from landing. Now descending through 50,000 feet as commander Pam Melroy takes over manual control of the ship.

1756 GMT (12:56 p.m. EST)

The crew has been given the "go" for normal deployment of the drag chute after main gear touchdown. Winds are peaking 23 knots from ahead and 4 knots from the right.

1755 GMT (12:55 p.m. EST)

Discovery is 81,000 miles up at 1,600 mph.

1754 GMT (12:54 p.m. EST)

Seven minutes to touchdown. Air data probes are being deployed from the shuttle's nose to feed air speed, altitude and angle of attack information to the computers for navigation.

1753 GMT (12:53 p.m. EST)

Discovery is 140 miles from the runway, traveling 107,000 miles in altitude at 2,900 mph.

1752 GMT (12:52 p.m. EST)

The shuttle has arrived in Florida now. traveling 118,000 miles in altitude at 3,500 mph.

1751 GMT (12:51 p.m. EST)

Discovery is 240 miles from Kennedy Space Center, 132,000 feet in altitude, traveling at 4,000 mph.

1751 GMT (12:51 p.m. EST)

Mission Control computes Discovery will land 2,900 feet down the runway at 195 knots. The vehicle remains on course and the MILA tracking station at the Cape has acquired Discovery's signal.

1750 GMT (12:50 p.m. EST)

The TACAN navigation units aboard Discovery are now receiving data from beacons located at the landing site, along with GPS receivers on the ship.

1750 GMT (12:50 p.m. EST)

Less than 12 minutes from touchdown. Discovery is entering into the skies over Georgia now.

1749 GMT (12:49 p.m. EST)

Altitude now 167,000 feet with a speed of 7,300 mph.

1748 GMT (12:48 p.m. EST)

Discovery is now 174,000 feet in altitude over central Alabama.

1747 GMT (12:47 p.m. EST)

The speed is now 9,300 mph at an altitude of 180,000 feet as Discovery flies over northern Mississippi.

1746 GMT (12:46 p.m. EST)

Discovery is now 198,000 feet in altitude as the track continues over the southwest corner of Missouri and then into northeast Arkansas.

1744 GMT (12:44 p.m. EST)

The shuttle is now rolling to the right as part of the four speed-slowing banks. Discovery is 210,000 feet over Kansas, traveling at 13,000 mph.

1743 GMT (12:43 p.m. EST)

Discovery is flying more than 13,000 mph over Nebraska.

1742 GMT (12:42 p.m. EST)

The track is now cutting across the southwest corner of South Dakota as the shuttle enters the time of peak atmospheric heating.

1741 GMT (12:41 p.m. EST)

Discovery is now 226,000 feet in altitude over Wyoming.

1740 GMT (12:40 p.m. EST)

"You are looking good at Mach 22," Mission Control just radioed the crew.

1739 GMT (12:39 p.m. EST)

The shuttle is passing over Montana now at 238,000 feet in altitude.

1737 GMT (12:37 p.m. EST)

Discovery is traveling at 16,300 mph as the shuttle makes landfall over Vancouver, British Columbia. The shuttle will continue across the U.S. heartland bound for landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

1736 GMT (12:36 p.m. EST)

Time to touchdown now 25 minutes. NASA says Discovery's landing weight will be 201,895 pounds. That is about 85,000 pounds lighter than the orbiter weighed at liftoff.

1735 GMT (12:35 p.m. EST)

Discovery is beginning the first of four banks to scrub off speed as it plunges into the atmosphere. These turns basically remove the energy Discovery built up during launch.

1733 GMT (12:33 p.m. EST)

Discovery descending through an altitude of 285,000 feet at a speed of 17,000 mph.

1731 GMT (12:31 p.m. EST)

The shuttle is about 5,000 miles from the runway now.

1730 GMT (12:30 p.m. EST)

ENTRY INTERFACE. Discovery's thermal protection system is feeling heat beginning to build as the orbiter enters the top fringes of the atmosphere -- a period known as entry interface.

The shuttle is flying at Mach 25 with its nose elevated 40 degrees, wings level, at an altitude of 400,000 feet over the northern Pacific Ocean, just south of the Aleutian Islands.

Touchdown remains set for 1:01 p.m. EST in Florida.

1721 GMT (12:21 p.m. EST)

Now 40 minutes to touchdown. Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility was built in 1975. The concrete strip is 300 feet wide and 15,000 feet long with 1,000-foot overruns at each end. The runway is located about three miles northwest of the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building.

Discovery is targeting Runway 33, which is the southeast to northwest approach. The shuttle will make a 195-degree overhead turn to align with the runway.

This will be the first daytime landing on Runway 33 since 2002.

1717 GMT (12:17 p.m. EST)

Discovery has crossed the equator as it flies over the Pacific.

1715 GMT (12:15 p.m. EST)

Onboard guidance has maneuvered Discovery from its heads-down, tail-forward position needed for the deorbit burn to the reentry configuration of heads-up and nose-forward. The nose will be pitched upward 40 degrees. In this new position, the black tiles on the shuttle's belly and the reinforced carbon-carbon panels on the wing leading edges and nose cap will shield the spacecraft during the fiery plunge through the Earth's atmosphere with temperatures reaching well over 2,000 degrees F. Discovery will begin interacting with the upper fringes of the atmosphere above the North Pacific at 12:30 p.m. EST.

1711 GMT (12:11 p.m. EST)

Touchdown is 50 minutes away. This will be the 66th shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center.

1705 GMT (12:05 p.m. EST)

The shuttle now passing 217 miles over Australia on a northeasterly heading. Discovery will enter into the atmosphere just south of Alaska.

1703 GMT (12:03 p.m. EST)

Excess propellant reserves in the maneuvering thrusters on the shuttle's nose will be dumped overboard. The dump time will be 16 seconds today.

1701 GMT (12:01 p.m. EST)

DEORBIT BURN COMPLETE. Discovery has successfully completed the deorbit burn for the trip back home. Landing is now scheduled for 1:01 p.m. EST at the Cape. The trek will take the shuttle over the United States. Maps are posted here.

1700 GMT (12:00 p.m. EST)

The burn continues in progress as the shuttle flies southwest of Australia.

1659 GMT (11:59 a.m. EST)

DEORBIT BURN IGNITION. Flying upside down and backwards above the Indian Ocean, Discovery has begun the deorbit burn. The firing of the twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines on the tail of the shuttle will last one minute and 53 seconds, slowing the craft by 147 mph to slip from orbit. The retro-burn will send Discovery to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a touchdown at about 1:01 p.m. EST.

1654 GMT (11:54 a.m. EST)

Discovery is in the proper orientation for the deorbit burn. And pilot George Zamka has activated one of three Auxiliary Power Units in advance of the burn. The other two APUs will be started later in the descent to provide pressure needed to power shuttle's hydraulic systems that move the wing flaps, rudder/speed brake, drop the landing gear and steer the nose wheel. NASA ensures that at least one APU is working before committing to the deorbit burn since the shuttle needs only a single unit to make a safe landing.

1649 GMT (11:49 a.m. EST)

GO FOR THE DEORBIT BURN! With good weather at Kennedy Space Center, entry flight director Bryan Lunney in Mission Control just gave the "go" for Discovery to perform the deorbit burn at 11:58:49 a.m. EST that will commit the shuttle for the trip back to Earth.

Landing in Florida is set for 1:02 p.m. EST.

1638 GMT (11:38 a.m. EST)

Now 20 minutes until the deorbit burn. Standing by for a "go" or "no go" call from Mission Control. The weather officers are looking at some clouds to the northeast of the runway that are moving toward the Kennedy Space Center.

1624 GMT (11:24 a.m. EST)

Pilot George Zamka is putting the Auxiliary Power Units cockpit switches in the ready-to-start configuration.

1552 GMT (10:52 a.m. EST)

The astronauts have been given the OK to start "fluid loading" procedures in which they drink large quantities of liquids to help in the readaptation to gravity. The latest weather update is predicting a headwind for Runway 33 of 12 peaking to 20 knots.

1538 GMT (10:38 a.m. EST)

Now passing 15 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes into this flight of space shuttle Discovery. At this point in the deorbit preparation timeline, the crew should be donning their bright orange pressure suits won during launches and landings. Weather continues to be favorable at the Kennedy Space Center for an on-time homecoming today.

1502 GMT (10:02 a.m. EST)

Now three hours from landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

1450 GMT (9:50 a.m. EST)

The latest update from Mission Control shows a deorbit burn ignition time of 11:58:49 a.m. EST. The 215-feet-per-second retrograde burn should last one minute and 53 seconds.

1435 GMT (9:35 a.m. EST)

Mission Control has given the crew a "go" to transition the onboard computers from the OPS-2 software used during the shuttle's stay in space to OPS-3, which is the software package that governs entry and landing. And Discovery will soon maneuver to a new orientation in space to improve the communications link with NASA's orbiting data relay satellites.

1420 GMT (9:20 a.m. EST)

Discovery's 60-foot-long payload bay doors are now closed and locked in preparation for today's fiery descent into Earth's atmosphere and landing at Kennedy Space Center. Weather continues to look excellent here at the spaceport.

1404 GMT (9:04 a.m. EST)

Mission Control has given the crew a "go" to close the orbiter's payload bay doors. Cooling is being switched from the radiators in the doors to the flash evaporator system that uses water stored on the shuttle to keep onboard systems from overheating.

1330 GMT (8:30 a.m. EST)

The astronauts have entered the deorbit prep checklist to ready the orbiter and themselves for today's entry and landing. It is a clear, crisp morning at the Kennedy Space Center with a breezy wind out of the north. The observed and forecast conditions remain "go" for a landing at 1:02 p.m. EST.

1200 GMT (7:00 a.m. EST)

Commander Pam Melroy is aligning space shuttle Discovery's three guidance units right now as preparations continue for today's entry and landing to conclude this two-week station assembly flight.

Firing of Discovery's twin braking rockets is scheduled for 11:59:12 a.m.. The one-minute and 58-second burn will slow the ship by about 150 mph to drop out of orbit for an hourlong glide to Earth. Touchdown on Runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is anticipated to occur at 1:01:50 p.m. EST.

The re-entry track will bring the shuttle on an unusual path, crossing into North America near Vancouver and then soaring over the U.S. heartland:

-Northeast corner of Wyoming
-Southwest corner of South Dakota (Rapid City)
-Central Nebraska
-Northeast Kansas (Topeka)
-Southwest corner of Missouri
-Northeast Arkansas
-Tennessee (Memphis)
-Northeast corner of Mississippi
-Alabama (Birmingham)
-Georgia (Columbus)

Maps showing the path are posted here.

Here is a timeline of the today's activities (in EST; the times for deorbit ignition and landing may change by a few seconds based on final tracking):


..............Rev. 238 Deorbit to KSC

07:59:12 AM...Begin deorbit timeline
08:14:12 AM...Radiator stow
08:24:12 AM...Mission specialists seat installation
08:30:12 AM...Computers set for deorbit prep
08:34:12 AM...Hydraulic system configuration
08:59:12 AM...Flash evaporator cooling system checkout
09:05:12 AM...Final payload deactivation
09:19:12 AM...Payload bay doors closed
09:29:12 AM...Mission control 'go' for OPS-3 entry software
09:39:12 AM...OPS-3 transition
10:04:12 AM...Entry switchlist verification
10:14:12 AM...Deorbit rocket firing update
10:19:12 AM...Crew entry review
10:34:12 AM...Commander/pilot don entry suits
10:51:12 AM...Navigation system alignment
10:59:12 AM...Commander/pilot strap in; MS suit don
11:16:12 AM...Shuttle steering check
11:19:12 AM...Hydraulic power unit prestart
11:26:12 AM...Toilet deactivation
11:34:12 AM...Vent doors closed for entry
11:39:12 AM...Mission control 'go' for deorbit burn
11:45:12 AM...Astronauts strap in
11:54:12 AM...Single hydraulic unit start

11:59:12 AM...Deorbit ignition (dV: 147 mph; dT: 1:58)
12:01:10 PM...Deorbit burn complete (alt: 223.3 sm)

12:30:05 PM...Entry interface (alt: 75.8 sm; vel: 16,979 mph)
12:35:24 PM...1st roll command to left
12:44:14 PM...1st left to right roll reversal
12:48:00 PM...C-band radar acquisition
12:55:16 PM...Velocity less than mach 2.5 (alt: 83,700 feet)
12:57:28 PM...Velocity less than mach 1 (alt: 51,200 feet)
12:58:47 PM...Shuttle banks to line up on runway
                         (alt: 32,200 feet; 192-degree right turn)
01:01:50 PM...Landing on runway 33


NASA managers late today cleared the shuttle Discovery for re-entry and landing Wednesday to close out a dramatic space station assembly mission, giving the ship's heat shield a clean bill of health after analyzing data from a final inspection.

Read our here.

1530 GMT (10:30 a.m. EST)

The Discovery astronauts worked through a busy final day in space today, packing up and testing the shuttle's re-entry systems for landing Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center.

Read our here.

1400 GMT (9:00 a.m. EST)

Read our undocking story.

1215 GMT (7:15 a.m. EST)

The shuttle is quickly departing the immediate vicinity of the space station following separation burn No. 2 at 7:14 a.m. EST. This was a six-second engine firing.

The Discovery crew will perform another series of heat shield inspections later this morning, then pack up the cabin and test flight controls tomorrow.

The deorbit burn to begin reentry is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, with a touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's three-mile concrete runway at 1:02 p.m. EST to conclude STS-120. A backup landing opportunity at KSC is available an orbit later, with a touchdown at 2:35 p.m.

1146 GMT (6:46 a.m. EST)

The shuttle just performed the first of two separation engine firings. Discovery is back out in front of the station to complete a full loop flyaround. Once at a point well above the station, the final burn is scheduled.

1133 GMT (6:33 a.m. EST)

The shuttle is beneath the station now.

1123 GMT (6:23 a.m. EST)

Discovery is nearing a point directly behind the station in terms of the direction of travel of the two spacecraft around the Earth, which is known as the -V bar.

1110 GMT (6:10 a.m. EST)

Discovery is reaching a point more than 500 feet directly above the space station.

The flyaround started with the shuttle in front of the station. It takes Discovery to a point directly above the complex, then behind it, looping below and back out in front. After climbing above the station for a second time, the final separation engine firing will be performed. This burn will send Discovery away from the vicinity of the station.

1100 GMT (6:00 a.m. EST)

Pilot George Zamka has begun flying Discovery in a one-lap flyaround of the station.

1054 GMT (5:54 a.m. EST)

Distance between the two spacecraft is now 300 feet.

1048 GMT (5:48 a.m. EST)

Now 200 feet between the shuttle and station. Orbital sunrise is coming up in a few minutes.

1038 GMT (5:38 a.m. EST)

Discovery is now 75 feet from the station, backing away at about 0.2 feet per second. The shuttle is headed to a point about 400 feet away where it will fire thrusters to begin an arc above the station.

1032 GMT (5:32 a.m. EST)

UNDOCKING! Shuttle Discovery is departing the space station for return to Earth. The shuttle continued construction of the orbiting complex by delivering Harmony, connecting module that will serve as the passageway to international science laboratories to be launched in the coming months. In addition, the Port 6 truss was moved outboard to its final position and the two massive solar arrays were fully deployed, albeit with a little help from an emergency spacewalk on Saturday.

The undocking is occurring 218 miles over the South Pacific.

Discovery is due home at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, with touchdown targeted for about 1:02 p.m. EST.

1030 GMT (5:30 a.m. EST)

Hooks and latches are driving open.

1028 GMT (5:28 a.m. EST)

Five minutes from undocking. The steering jets on Discovery are inhibited for the period of physical undocking from the station. The separation occurs when large springs push the two craft apart. Once the shuttle is a couple feet away from the station and the docking devices are clear of one another, pilot George Zamka will fire Discovery's thrusters to continue the movement away.

1000 GMT (5:00 a.m. EST)

The Discovery astronauts prepared the shuttle for undocking from the international space station today to close out a dramatic assembly mission that sets the stage for the long-awaited attachment of European and Japanese research modules over the next three shuttle flights.

Read our full story.


The Discovery astronauts packed up today, moving equipment back to the shuttle in preparation for closing hatches between the orbiter and the international space station this afternoon. If all goes well, Discovery will undock from the lab complex early Monday, setting the stage for landing Wednesday to close out a dramatic space station assembly mission.

Read our full story.


Physician-astronaut Scott Parazynski, working on the end of a boom carried by the space station's robot arm, successfully repaired a mangled solar array Saturday, cutting away a snarled guidewire, installing five suture-like braces and then standing by while his crewmates extended the array its full 110-foot length.

Read our wrap-up story.

1830 GMT (2:30 p.m. EDT)

Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock began repressurizing the Quest airlock module at 1:22 p.m. to close out a dramatic seven-hour 19-minute spacewalk after successfully repairing a mangled space station solar array. A few minutes earlier, commands were sent to put full tension on the repaired P6 array and the lab's left-side solar panels were cleared for normal sun-tracking operation.

Read our full story.

1722 GMT (1:22 p.m. EDT)

EVA ENDS. Repressurization of the Quest airlock module began at 1:22 p.m. EDT, marking the official end of today's spacewalk by Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock.

The EVA lasted 7 hours and 19 minutes, bringing the total time for the four STS-120 spacewalks to 27 hours and 14 minutes.

1713 GMT (1:13 p.m. EDT)

The airlock's outer hatch has been closed and locked.

1635 GMT (12:35 p.m. EDT)

A wire-cutter tool has floated away from one of the spacewalkers as they were putting away their gear before heading back into the airlock.

1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)

Read our story on the array's successful deployment here.

1543 GMT (11:43 a.m. EDT)

The robotic arm is moving Parazynski back to the Port 1 truss where he can hop off the boom.

1527 GMT (11:27 a.m. EDT)

The spacewalkers will be stowing away their tools and preparing to head back for the airlock to wrap up this EVA, which is nearing the five-and-a-half-hour mark now.

1523 GMT (11:23 a.m. EDT)

Deployment completed! The Port 6 solar array has been fully extended after a successful and dramatic repair.

1520 GMT (11:20 a.m. EDT)

The final section-and-a-half left to be deployed.

1517 GMT (11:17 a.m. EDT)

The crew reports seeing some loading on the cufflinks, but all looks ok with five bays deployed.

1515 GMT (11:15 a.m. EDT)

A total of four full bays have deployed so far.

1510 GMT (11:10 a.m. EDT)

"Nice and smooth," one of the spacewalkers reported as a third half-bay extended.

1509 GMT (11:09 a.m. EDT)

Another half-bay has deployed.

1508 GMT (11:08 a.m. EDT)

A half-section of the array has successfully unfurled.

1504 GMT (11:04 a.m. EDT)

Houston has given the "go" to begin the solar array deployment sequence. The crew will be extending the array in one-half sections, or bays, at a time. The array is roughly two-dozen of the 31 bays extended right now.

1500 GMT (11:00 a.m. EDT)

Performing emergency surgery 213 miles up, astronaut-physician Scott Parazynski cut away snarled guidewire hanging up a mangled space station solar array and installed five long suture-like straps to prevent two rips in the fragile panel from pulling open. The dramatic repair work, conducted high above the far left end of the station's main solar power truss, took a bit longer than expected, but the MacGyver-style fix using homemade brackets, seemed to work as well as engineers had hoped.

Read our full story.

1457 GMT (10:57 a.m. EDT)

The robot arm is moving away from the solar array, taking spacewalker Scott Parazynski a safe disance for the upcoming deployment attempt.

1457 GMT (10:57 a.m. EDT)

All of the cufflinks have been put into the solar array blanket to shore up the array.

1447 GMT (10:47 a.m. EDT)

The foourth cufflink is in place; just one more to go on the far edge of the array blanket.

1443 GMT (10:43 a.m. EDT)

With the wiring being trimmed away and only two more cufflinks to install, the crew just asked Mission Control about deploying the solar array to its full extension. The hope is there will be enough time left in the EVA for the spacewalkers to remain near the array to help watch the unfurling.

1435 GMT (10:35 a.m. EDT)

An image of the cufflink installation areas is posted here. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 have been installed.

1427 GMT (10:27 a.m. EDT)

This second cufflink, measuring about three feet in length, is being placed over the large damage area.

1422 GMT (10:22 a.m. EDT)

"Time is of the essence," Mission Control radioed the crew. With more than fours elapsed into this seven-hour EVA, the crew was told they need to proceed with the cufflink installations as quickly as possible.

1412 GMT (10:12 a.m. EDT)

Parazynski has used his tools to remove some of the guide wire in the snarl. He is installing another of the cufflinks now.

1354 GMT (9:54 a.m. EDT)

"3, 2, 1, snip." Scott Parazynski has cut the guide wire up at the damage area while Doug Wheelock down at the base of the solar array works to get the wire to retract back into the deployment box.

1350 GMT (9:50 a.m. EDT)

The hinge wire has been trimmed and now the spacewalkers are about to cut the troublesome guide wire.

1330 GMT (9:30 a.m. EDT)

Now approaching the three-hour mark in this spacewalk. The crew is preparing to cut away from the snagged hinge wire by the large blanket tear and array guide wire around the damage site.

Video from Parazynski's helmet-mounted camera shows a complex wire snarl hanging up damaged solar array slats.

"I see two major areas of fraying," Parazynski reported. "One at the small damage site, lower to the grommet that was probably, formerly, at the small damage site. And the fray is in excess of one-inch long, which is hard to do with this kind of wire. And then there's another grommet under tension emanating from the large damage site and there are several strands of wire all grouped together there."

"We've got an excellent view of your closeup of the snarl," Melroy said.

"Isn't that amazing?"

"Oh, that's just ugly," Melroy said.

"Yeah," Parazynski said.

A few minutes later, Melroy asked: "Do you see a lot of loose hinge wire kind of curling around there?"

"I think that's not hinge wire, I think that's the guide wire has become unfrayed," Parazynski said. "It's almost like it's been stripped."

"Oh wow," Melroy said. "Oh, that's really frayed!"

1312 GMT (9:12 a.m. EDT)

Anchored to the end of a boom on the space station's robot arm, astronaut Scott Parazynski gave flight controllers their first detailed description of damage to a ripped solar array, reporting a complex tangle of guide wires, hinge pins and grommets around an area that was mangled during deployment Tuesday.

"The damage is as anticipated," he reported, examining the damage from a few feet away. "There is a hairball (tangle) with the guidewire, the hinge between (blanket slats) 35 and 36 and a grommet, not sure of the origin of it, but probably at the 35-36 location. That's almost certainly where it came from. There is separation of the doubler, the physical hinge off of the inboard, lower side of panel, let me get this right here, 36. Looks to be about 8 to 10 inches in length, it's ripped clean from the edge of the panel. You can see that the cells are still intact on the back side, it just came off from the edge."

Read our full story.

1305 GMT (9:05 a.m. EDT)

The first of these homemade cufflinks has been installed by Parazynski, slipping the wire through guide holes near the center of the blanket. The clips are designed to distrubute the structure load across the broken solar array before the spacewalk attempts to free the snarl around the tear.

1255 GMT (8:55 a.m. EDT)

Our gallery of photos from this morning's move of space shuttle Atlantis to the Vehicle Assembly Building is posted here.

1245 GMT (8:45 a.m. EDT)

Scott Parazynski has completed a full up-close inspection of the solar array damage. He is about to install the first in a series of so-called "cufflinks" that were manufactured by the astronauts to add strength to the damaged solar array.

1215 GMT (8:15 a.m. EDT)

Parazynski is less than 10 feet away from the array now.

1200 GMT (8:00 a.m. EDT)

During the ride over to the P6-4B solar array, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli read the spacewalkers a long list of warnings, some of them common to all spacewalks and some due to concern about working around the electrically active solar arrays.

"We have a bunch of warnings related to shock hazard," Nespoli radioed. "Here's one about EMU contact with ... solar array panels. EV crew will only contact energized surfaces with approved tools that have been insulated with Kapton tape to prevent molten metal and shock. ... The last box is minimize contact between metal array components and exposed damaged solar cells on active side. Note some sparking may be expected. Avoid contact with solar panels except with insulated tools. Sharp edges likely present at damage locations."

A few minutes later, as the shuttle-station complex sailed up the East Coast of the United States, Parazynski asked, "Can you guys see my wireless video? This is just behond description!"

"It's fantastic, but it's ratty right now," mission control replied.

"Oh, what a shame."

"Scott, I assure you, from window 1 the view is just as spectacular," shuttle commander Pam Melroy chimed in.

"Oh, man!" Parazynski marveled at the world spread out below him. "Words can't do this justice. No way, at least not mine."

1155 GMT (7:55 a.m. EDT)

Space shuttle Atlantis has arrived inside Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, completing this morning's sunrise drive from its hangar. Atlantis is being readied for launch on December 6 to haul the European Space Agency's Columbus science laboratory module to the space station.

Over the next 24 hours, Atlantis will be hoisted upright to point its nose skyward, gently maneuvered high into the rafters of the 52-story assembly building and then lowered into assembly bay for attachment to the shuttle's awaiting external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters.

The tank and booster stack has been put together atop the mobile launching platform. Once Atlantis is bolted to the tank, the combined shuttle system will undergo several days of testing before rollout to pad 39A next Saturday morning. The three-and-a-half-mile trip is scheduled to begin at 4 a.m. EST.

1146 GMT (7:46 a.m. EDT)

Atlantis is making the turn to enter the VAB now. Meanwhile, station arm operators Stephanie Wilson and Dan Tani continue maneuvering Scott Parazynski toward the P6 truss solar wing.

1125 GMT (7:25 a.m. EDT)

Here at Kennedy Space Center, Atlantis has emerged from the hangar as the dawn breaks along Florida's eastern coast. The ship is heading for the Vehicle Assembly Building to be attached with an external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters for next month's launch to the space station.

1121 GMT (7:21 a.m. EDT)

With Scott Parazynski secured on the end of the boom, the station robot arm is ready to begin maneuvering the spacewalker toward the solar array damage site.

1106 GMT (7:06 a.m. EDT)

Atlantis has begun this morning's move to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Bolted aboard a 76-wheel transporter, the shuttle is slowly backing out of the hangar en route to the 52-story VAB.

1050 GMT (6:50 a.m. EDT)

Shuttle commander Pam Melroy, using binoculars to take a close-up look at a damaged solar array on the left side of the space station, told spacewalker Scott Parazynski not to expect an easy repair today.

"Hey Scott, this is Pambo, I've got a great view out window 1 of the damage site, I got out the binoculars and took a really close look," she radioed Parazynski as he was making his way to the station's robot arm for transport to the damaged array.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"Well, it looks to me like the hinge wire at the large tear has been busted at about the point, oh let's see, let me make sure I've got the, I'm trying to think of the name of the vertical tape that has the holes in them, it's about halfway from the inboard edge and that tape. So some hinge wire is still left down there, kind of hanging out in the middle of that most inboard section. And then the rest of it has snarled through the (garble) wire and it also looks like... hang on a second... OK, then the upper hinge wire, the small tear, that hinge wire is also snarled. So it looks to me like both hinge wires, the guide wire and a grommet are all snarled up. In fact, I had kind of a back shadow of it on the panel and I could actually see the little fur ball outlined in shadow."

"Well, that sounds like we have to do the whole enchilada for the repair, huh?" Parazynski said, referring to a repair scenario that would have him cut the tangled wires.

"Concur," Melroy said. "It doesn't look like an easy, just rattle-it-and-shake-loose-the-grommet kind of situation."

1045 GMT (6:45 a.m. EDT)

A group of news photographers has arrived outside shuttle Atlantis' hangar here at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle is scheduled to depart the facility at 7 a.m. EDT for this morning's quarter-mile trip to Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis is supposed to launch to the space station next month.

1025 GMT (6:25 a.m. EDT)

Here is an updated timeline based on the actual start time of today's spacewalk (in EDT and spacewalk elapsed time; subject to change):

06:38 AM...00...30......Heat shield boom (OBSS) setup
........................1. Move to P1 truss/bay 12; perform tether swap
........................2. Install work site interface extension
........................3. Install foot restraint on WIF extension
........................4. Astronaut gets In foot restraint

07:08 AM...01...00......SSRMS maneuver to P6-4B solar array wing
........................1. Check OBSS stability prior to P1 departure
........................2. Station arm moves astronaut to P6-4B array wing

08:08 AM...02...00......4B SAW troubleshooting
........................1. Assess/report guide wire configuration
........................2. Clear guide wires; cut if necessary
........................3. Install hinge stabilization cufflinks

10:38 AM...04...30......OBSS maneuver to egress point
........................1. SSRMS moves OBSS back to P1 bay 12 for egress

11:08 AM...05...00......Foot restraint egress and OBSS cleanup
........................1. Egress foot restraint; remove/stow OBSS hardware

11:38 AM...05...30......EVA-4 cleanup
........................1. Stow WIF extender on ESP-2; stow tools
........................2. Return to airlock

12:08 PM...06...00......Airlock ingress
12:38 PM...06...30......Airlock repressurization

1019 GMT (6:19 a.m. EDT)

Both spacewalkers have emerged from the airlock.

"Go out there and fix that thing for us," space station commander Peggy Whitson radioed as the astronauts prepared to leave the airlock.

"We will," Parazynski promised.

1014 GMT (6:14 a.m. EDT)

The space station's robotic arm has moved the Orbiter Boom Sensor System -- the 50-foot pole that Scott Parazynski will stand on to reach solar array -- has been maneuvered down to the Port 1 truss. It is that spot where Parazynski will attach a foot platform to the boom and hop aboard for the ride to the array.

1003 GMT (6:03 a.m. EDT)

EVA BEGINS. Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock switched their suits to internal battery at 6:03 a.m. EDT, marking the official start time for today's EVA.

1002 GMT (6:02 a.m. EDT)

The outer hatchway of the Quest airlock module has been opened.

0940 GMT (5:40 a.m. EDT)

Meanwhile, here at the Kennedy Space Center ground teams are preparing space shuttle Atlantis for its move from the Orbiter Processing Facility hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The doors to the VAB transfer aisle was just opened a few minutes ago.

0933 GMT (5:33 a.m. EDT)

Dressed in their spacewalking suits, Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock have entered into the airlock and their fellow astronaut crewmates have closed the hatch behind them. Depressurization of the airlock has just begun for this morning's EVA.

0800 GMT (4:00 a.m. EDT)

Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock are suiting up in the space station's Quest airlock module this morning for a high-stakes spacewalk to repair a mangled solar array. If the orbital surgery is successful, the partially deployed solar wing will be fully extended and NASA will be clear to press ahead with plans to launch a European research module in December. If the fix falls short, more repair work could be needed and the next shuttle flight likely would slip into next year.

Read our full story.


The Discovery astronauts today reviewed plans for a dramatic solar array repair spacewalk early Saturday and appeared confident they have a good shot at fixing the mangled panel to keep space station assembly on track. Lead flight director Derek Hassmann said concern that spacewalker Scott Parazynski could get zapped by an unexpected electrical discharge while working near the charged array was misplaced and that the additional risk was minimal.

"As I left the control center today, I felt really, really good about where we are, about the robotics pieces of the procedures, about the spacewalking techniques, about the hardware, about our understanding of the area of damage, about our approaches to fixing that damage and also about the ground choreography and how the timeline's going to play out in mission control," he said. "I walked away from my shift today very, very impressed with the incredible amount of progress that's occurred over the last 24 hours."

Said lead spacewalk officer Dina Contella: "Having the extra day to prepare for this spacewalk has really been a good thing for the EVA team, we've really hammered flat a lot of the details. ... It's really been a huge, coordinated effort. The big picture really hasn't changed. it's just a matter of the details, really, getting (figured) out in the extra day that we had."

A successful repair is critical to NASA's plans for continuing space station assembly. At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, engineers are scheduled to move the shuttle Atlantis from its hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building for attachment to a set of boosters and an external tank. Launch on the next space station assembly mission, a high-profile flight to deliver Europe's Columbus research module, is targeted for Dec. 6.

Read our full story.


Working around the clock, flight controllers, astronauts and engineers are fine tuning a daring plan to put an astronaut on the end of a long boom attached to the space station's robot arm - farther from the safety of the lab's airlock than any spacewalker before him - to perform emergency surgery on a mangled solar array.

Read our full story.

Read our earlier status center coverage.

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