Spaceflight Now



The Mission




Orbiter: Endeavour
Mission: STS-123
Launch: March 11, 2008
Time: 2:28 a.m. EDT (0628 GMT)
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Landing: March 26 @ 8:39 p.m. EDT
Site: Shuttle Landing Facility, KSC

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BY JUSTIN RAY

Complete coverage of the space shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 mission to the International Space Station. Reload for the latest updates.

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: CREW'S POST-FLIGHT NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY
VIDEO: SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR'S LANDING AS SEEN LIVE PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: CAMERA LOOKING OUT PILOT'S WINDOW PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: OUR FOOTAGE FROM THE RUNWAY PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: INFRARED TRACKING CAMERA PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: VAB ROOF CAMERA PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: RUNWAY MID-FIELD PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: RUNWAY WEST PLAY
VIDEO: LANDING REPLAY: RUNWAY EAST PLAY
VIDEO: CREW EMERGES FOR POST-LANDING GREETINGS PLAY
VIDEO: NASA AND JAXA POST-LANDING NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY
VIDEO: BEHIND THE SCENES W/ENTRY TEAM IN MISSION CONTROL PLAY

VIDEO: CREW GIVEN THE "GO" FOR DEORBIT BURN PLAY
VIDEO: FIRST LANDING OPPORTUNITY CANCELLED PLAY
VIDEO: WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE PLANE TAKES OFF PLAY
MORE: STS-123 VIDEO COVERAGE
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THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2008
0530 GMT (1:30 a.m. EDT)


Running one orbit late because of troublesome low clouds, the shuttle Endeavour plunged back to Earth Wednesday, dropping out of the night for a picture-perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, NASA confirmed the next shuttle launch will slip a few days.

Read our updated story.

0153 GMT (9:53 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Six of the astronauts, except for returning station crewmember Leopold Eyharts, exited the Crew Transport Vehicle to chat with the officials and VIPs waiting on the runway and to get an upclose look at their spaceship.

The astronauts will be heading for crew quarters to be reunited with their family members and have some dinner. They will be flying back to Houston tomorrow afternoon.

Endeavour is scheduled to be towed off the runway four-to-five hours after landing. The shuttle will be taken to its Orbiter Processing Facility hangar bay to begin preparations for the STS-126 mission set for launch later this year.

0144 GMT (9:44 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The Crew Transport Vehicle carrying the astronauts is pulling back from the shuttle. Some of the crew is expected to take the traditional walkaround of Endeavour to inspect the ship on the runway. There to welcome them is senior space agency officials.

0121 GMT (9:21 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Commander Dom Gorie just signed off. He has turned the shuttle over to support personnel. The seven astronauts are egressing the orbiter into the Crew Transport Vehicle.

0118 GMT (9:18 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Running one orbit late because of troublesome low clouds, the shuttle Endeavour plunged back to Earth today, dropping out of the night for a picture-perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center to close out a marathon 16-day space station assembly mission. Joining the shuttle astronauts for the trip back to Earth was European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts, launched to the station in February and returning after 48 days in space.

Read our full story.

0115 GMT (9:15 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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.

0100 GMT (9:00 p.m. EDT Wed.)

With the three Auxiliary Power Units now turned off, the normal flame venting from the ports has ceased.

0058 GMT (8:58 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The main engine nozzles have been moved. And now the hydraulics are no longer required, so Endeavour's three Auxiliary Power Units are being shut down.

0055 GMT (8:55 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour touched down some 2,312 feet down the runway. The pre-landing prediction was 2,400 feet.

The shuttle's rollout distance until the wheels stopped was 13,506 feet.

0054 GMT (8:54 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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

0052 GMT (8:52 p.m. EDT Wed.)

For those of you wondering about the fiery venting of the Auxiliary Power Units below the tail of Endeavour: "It's very pronounced but very normal," Mission Control commentator Kyle Herring says.

0051 GMT (8:51 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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

0050 GMT (8:50 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Here are the landing times in Eastern Daylight Time and Mission Elapsed Time:

Main Gear Touchdown
8:39:08 p.m. EDT
MET: 15 days, 18 hours, 10 minutes, 54 seconds

Nose Gear Touchdown
8:39:17 p.m. EDT
MET: 15 days, 18 hours, 11 minutes, 03 seconds

Wheels Stop
8:40:41 p.m. EDT
MET: 15 days, 18 hours, 12 minutes, 27 seconds

0047 GMT (8:47 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The external tank umbilical doors on the shuttle's belly are being opened. And the body flap is being set.

0045 GMT (8:45 p.m. EDT Wed.)

"Houston, Endeavour, wheel's stop," commander Dom Gorie radioed.

"Welcome home Endeavour...congrats to the entire crew, to JAXA and the CSA on a very successful mission delivering the JLP and Dextre to their new home on ISS," CAPCOM Jim Dutton replied.

"Thanks Jim, it was a super, rewarding mission, exciting from the start to the ending, and we just thank you for all your help. Looking forward to seeing you in Houston."

"Likewise Dom. And we have no immediate post-landing deltas for you. We'll meet you on page five dash three on the entry checklist."

0042 GMT (8:42 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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

0042 GMT (8:42 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Mission Control says the flames venting from the Auxiliary Power Units is normal, just more-visible at night.

0040 GMT (8:40 p.m. EDT Wed.)

WHEELS STOP. Endeavour has returned to Earth from the 25th space shuttle construction flight to the space station. The 16-day marathon mission accomplished five spacewalks, more than any previous shuttle visit to the station, and continued construction of the outpost by delivering the Kibo logistics module, the first of three elements that will comprise Japan's portion of the station, and assembled Canada's two-armed robot named Dextre, a maintenance handyman to be used on the station's exterior.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is rolling down the runway at Kennedy Space Center to conclude its voyage spanning 6,578,000 miles.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT Wed.)

TOUCHDOWN! Main gear touchdown. Pilot Greg Johnson is unfurling the drag chute as commander Dom Gorie brings the nose gear to the surface of Runway 15.

0038 GMT (8:38 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Pilot Greg Johnson is deploying the landing gear. Standing by for touchdown on Runway 15.

0038 GMT (8:38 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Now 3,000 feet.

0038 GMT (8:38 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Wings are level on final approach. Altitude 6,000 feet.

0038 GMT (8:38 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude 8,000 feet. The shuttle descending at a rate seven times steeper than that of a commercial airliner.

0037 GMT (8:37 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Field in sight. Commander Dom Gorie reports he can see the runway as he guides Endeavour to landing.

0037 GMT (8:37 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Less than two minutes to touchdown. Descending through 20,000 feet.

0036 GMT (8:36 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude 23,000 feet as Endeavour continues in the sweeping turn.

0036 GMT (8:36 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is traveling 30,000 feet in altitude at 280 knots.

0036 GMT (8:36 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The shuttle is in the Heading Alignment Cylinder, an imaginary circle to align with Runway 15. Commander Dom Gorie is piloting Endeavour through a 255-degree left-overhead turn over the Atlantic to loop around for landing on the northwest to southeast runway.

0035 GMT (8:35 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is 40,000 feet in altitude, traveling just under 600 mph.

0035 GMT (8:35 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The twin sonic booms have rumbled across the Kennedy Space Center area, announcing the shuttle's arrival.

0034 GMT (8:34 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is 52,000 feet in altitude, traveling at 700 mph.

0034 GMT (8:34 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The crew has been given a "go" for normal deployment of the drag chute after main gear touchdown.

0033 GMT (8:33 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is 70,000 feet in altitude, traveling at 1,000 mph.

0033 GMT (8:33 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Now descending through 78,000 feet.

0032 GMT (8:32 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is 90,000 feet in altitude, 85 miles from the runway, traveling at 2,000 mph.

0031 GMT (8:31 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Eight 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.

0030 GMT (8:30 p.m. EDT Wed.)

At an altitude of 120,000 feet and a speed over 3,000 mph, the shuttle is making its U.S. landfall over Sarasota, Florida. Its eastward path will continue south of Lakeland, near Lake Wales, and above the center of the state. After a left-hand bank, Endeavour will soar over Titusville. And once just offshore, commander Dom Gorie will begin the sweeping 255-degree left-overhead turn to align with Runway 15.

0029 GMT (8:29 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Ten minutes from landing. Endeavour is 135,000 feet in altitude.

0028 GMT (8:28 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude of 150,000 feet, some 300 miles from the runway.

0028 GMT (8:28 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Now 11 minutes from touchdown. Mission Control computes Endeavour will land 2,400 feet down the runway at 195 knots.

0026 GMT (8:26 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is traveling 170,000 feet in altitude over the Gulf at 7,700 mph, 480 miles from the runway.

0026 GMT (8:26 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The MILA tracking station at the Cape has acquired Endeavour's signal.

0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude is 182,000 feet. The shuttle has emerged from the Yucatan and is crossing the Gulf of Mexico now.

0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Now 14 minutes from landing. The shuttle is about to exit the Yucatan Peninsula north of Cancun.

0024 GMT (8:24 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is now 192,000 feet in altitude, traveling at 10,800 mph, some 832 miles from the landing site.

0022 GMT (8:22 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is performing the first roll-reversal at 13,000 mph over southern Mexico.

0021 GMT (8:21 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Mission Control says all systems aboard the spacecraft look good, now descending through 215,000 feet.

0021 GMT (8:21 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude of 220,000 feet, some 1,360 miles from the runway.

0020 GMT (8:20 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is approaching the coast of North America. The shuttle will fly over southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula during the next few minutes.

0019 GMT (8:19 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Twenty minutes to go. Endeavour is 231,000 feet up, traveling at 14,700 mph.

0017 GMT (8:17 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour descending through an altitude of 239,000 feet at a speed of 15,700 mph.

0017 GMT (8:17 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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

0016 GMT (8:16 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The current conditions at the landing site indicate the cloud cover has dissipated, now just a few clouds at 6,000 feet.

0014 GMT (8:14 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Time to touchdown now 25 minutes. NASA says Endeavour's landing weight will be 207,582 pounds. That is 62,185 pounds lighter than the orbiter weighed at liftoff.

0012 GMT (8:12 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Altitude now 259,000 feet, traveling at 17,000 mph.

0011 GMT (8:11 p.m. EDT Wed.)

The Runway 15 landing aids and xenon flood lights are ready, Mission Control just radioed commander Dom Gorie.

0010 GMT (8:10 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Endeavour is 315,000 feet above the Pacific, just south of the equator.

0009 GMT (8:09 p.m. EDT Wed.)

Now 30 minutes from touchdown. Endeavour's track to landing is illustrated here.

0007 GMT (8:07 p.m. EDT Wed.)

ENTRY INTERFACE. Endeavour'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 southern Pacific Ocean.

Touchdown remains set for 8:39 p.m. EDT in Florida.

0004 GMT (8:04 p.m. EDT Wed.)

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.

Endeavour is targeting Runway 15, which is the northwest to southeast approach. The shuttle will make a 255-degree left overhead turn to align with the runway.

WENESDAY, MARCH 26, 2008
2359 GMT (7:59 p.m. EDT)


Now 40 minutes to touchdown. Onboard guidance has maneuvered Endeavour 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. Endeavour will begin interacting with the upper fringes of the atmosphere above the South Pacific at 8:07 p.m. EDT.

2356 GMT (7:56 p.m. EDT)

All three Auxiliary Power Units are running.

2349 GMT (7:49 p.m. EDT)

Touchdown is 50 minutes away. This will be the 68th shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center and the 16th to occur at night. Overall, it will be the 22nd night landing for the shuttle program when you include those that have taken place at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

2347 GMT (7:47 p.m. EDT)

The convoy of landing support vehicles is moving to runway staging point for receiving Endeavour.

2345 GMT (7:45 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour is passing south of Australia.

2343 GMT (7:43 p.m. EDT)

Excess propellant reserves in the maneuvering thrusters on the shuttle's nose will be dumped overboard. The dump time will be 14 seconds.

2341 GMT (7:41 p.m. EDT)

The deorbit burn has resulted in a 190 by 23 mile orbit for the shuttle. The burn puts the low-point of the orbit over the Pacific Ocean for Endeavour to begin re-entering the atmosphere.

2339 GMT (7:39 p.m. EDT)

Sixty minutes to touchdown. Endeavour is now maneuvering to the orientation for entry.

2336 GMT (7:36 p.m. EDT)

DEORBIT BURN COMPLETE. Endeavour has successfully completed the deorbit burn for the trip back home. Landing is scheduled for 8:39 p.m. EDT at the Cape to complete this 16-day space station assembly mission.

2333 GMT (7:33 p.m. EDT)

Both engines are up and running. The spacecraft is under good control, Houston reports.

2333 GMT (7:33 p.m. EDT)

DEORBIT BURN IGNITION. Flying upside down and backwards above the Indian Ocean, Endeavour has begun the deorbit burn. The firing of the twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines on the tail of the shuttle will last two-and-three-quarter minutes, slowing the craft by about 200 mph to slip from orbit. The retro-burn will send Endeavour to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a touchdown at 8:39 p.m. EDT.

2332 GMT (7:32 p.m. EDT)

Good start on the first APU.

2331 GMT (7:31 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour is in the proper orientation and systems are configured for the deorbit burn.

2330 GMT (7:30 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour now passing just to the southwest of India and Sri Lanka.

2328 GMT (7:28 p.m. EDT)

Pilot Greg Johnson is activating one of three Auxiliary Power Units in advance of the burn, now five minutes away. 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.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT)

GO FOR THE DEORBIT BURN! The cloud cover and weather has improved enough, now being declared observed and forecast "go" at Kennedy Space Center. So entry flight director Richard Jones in Mission Control just gave approval for Endeavour to perform the deorbit burn at 7:33:14 p.m. EDT that will commit the shuttle for the trip back to Earth.

Touchdown in Florida is set for 8:39 p.m. EDT.

2323 GMT (7:23 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour is beginning the maneuver to the deorbit burn attitude. Weather debates continue in Mission Control.

2321 GMT (7:21 p.m. EDT)

Mission Control just asked commander Dom Gorie if he is comfortable about flying through low clouds between 5,000 and 6,000 feet at night or else wait for tomorrow night's daylight opportunity. Gorie replied he would be comfortable with those cloud conditions tonight.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

Entry flight director Richard Jones is receiving a weather update before he makes the final decision about the landing tonight. Stability in the weather and cloud thickness remain the concerns.

2306 GMT (7:06 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour is flying over the North Atlantic, approaching Europe on a southeasterly course that will take the spacecraft over the Indian Ocean where the deorbit burn is scheduled to begin at 7:33 p.m. just south of the equator.

2303 GMT (7:03 p.m. EDT)

Now 30 minutes until the deorbit burn time. Standing by for a "go" or "no go" call from Mission Control. Whether the weather will cooperate is the question.

2257 GMT (6:57 p.m. EDT)

The latest data from Mission Control shows the upcoming deorbit burn ignition time will be 7:33:14 p.m. EDT. The twin braking rockets will fire for two minutes and 45 seconds.

Endeavour's sweeping left-overhead turn to align with Runway 15 will be 255 degrees.

And landing time remains 8:39 p.m. EDT.

2254 GMT (6:54 p.m. EDT)

Weather reconnaissance pilot Brent Jett reports the clouds are rather thin, only 200 feet or so. But these low clouds do cover most of the sky around the Cape.

2240 GMT (6:40 p.m. EDT)

Should the weather remain "no go" for the next landing opportunity that starts with the 7:33 p.m. EDT deorbit burn for touchdown at 8:39 p.m., then Endeavour would have to stay in space for another day. The landing possibilities for Thursday evening at Kennedy Space Center and the alternate site of Edwards Air Force Base in California are:


ORBIT....SITE...DEORBIT....LANDING

264......KSC....06:24 PM...07:27 PM
265......KSC....08:00 PM...09:02 PM
266......EDW....09:30 PM...10:32 PM
267......EDW....11:06 PM...12:08 AM

Those times in EDT...and could change by a few minutes.

2235 GMT (6:35 p.m. EDT)

The weather trend shows the clouds could be thinning. The situation remains iffy at best right now.

But the crew has been given a "go" to re-start the "fluid loading" protocol. That involves drinking large amounts of liquids and salt tablets to assist in the readaptation to Earth's gravity.

"Cheers!" radioed CAPCOM Jim Dutton.

The crew can pick from water, chicken consomme, orange and lemon-lime drinks.

2210 GMT (6:10 p.m. EDT)

The next deorbit burn opportunity is 7:33 p.m. EDT (correction from the earlier Central Time typo) for Endeavour to begin the hour-long glide back to Earth. The high-speed, tire-smoking touchdown would occur at 8:39 p.m. EDT on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

2159 GMT (5:59 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour is passing over Malaysia right now at the point where the deorbit burn was supposed to be underway. However, cloudy skies at the Kennedy Space Center landing site has caused a one-orbit extension of the mission.

2150 GMT (5:50 p.m. EDT)

If the weather situation improves to permit Endeavour to return home on the second opportunity this evening, you can see the track the shuttle would take into the Kennedy Space Center here.

2140 GMT (5:40 p.m. EDT)

Read our story on the landing delay.

2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT)

WAVE OFF. Cloudy conditions that rolled into the Kennedy Space Center area late this afternoon has forced Mission Control to delay landing of space shuttle Endeavour for one orbit. The ship will remain in space an additional 90-minute revolution of the planet in hopes the weather improves.

The day's second and final landing opportunity would begin with a deorbit burn at 7:33 p.m., leading to a nighttime touchdown on the spaceport's three-mile-long concrete landing strip at 8:39 p.m. EDT.

2122 GMT (5:22 p.m. EDT)

Pilot Greg Johnson has put the Auxiliary Power Units cockpit switches in the ready-to-start configuration.

2120 GMT (5:20 p.m. EDT)

Entry flight director Richard Jones will soon receive a detailed weather briefing and input from Brent Jett flying the weather reconnaissance aircraft at the Cape. Jett is making a full approach to the south-end of the landing strip to evaluate the cloud cover and any moisture in those clouds.

The time of ignition for the deorbit burn is 5:58 p.m., leading to a sunset landing at 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Endeavour will re-enter over the Pacific Ocean, then fly above Central America near the border between Costa Rica and Panama. After crossing the Caribbean, the shuttle will pass just west of Jamaica as it banks to the left and begins a northerly trek across Cuba bound for Florida.

The shuttle will make its U.S. landfall over Miami. That northward path will continue for the next few moments before banking to the right and crossing back over the Atlantic near Port St. Lucie. The second U.S. landfall occurs at the spaceport, flying almost directly overhead the Delta 2 rocket launch site at Cape Canaveral's Complex 17. The shuttle will go over the shuttle pads at Complex 39 and then perform the sweeping 195-degree left-overhead U-turn to align with Runway 15.

If the weather is unacceptable when Jones has to make the "go/no go" decision for the burn a little later this hour, then Endeavour would remain in space for another orbit and target a deorbit burn at at 7:33 p.m., leading to a nighttime touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's concrete Runway 15 at 8:39 p.m. EDT.

2106 GMT (5:06 p.m. EDT)

The current cloud conditions are "no go" for a shuttle landing. Meteorologists are hopeful the situation will improve as the temperatures begin to drop in the late afternoon and the clouds dissipate. But a large band of cloudiness moving into the area south of the landing site has become a real concern.

CAPCOM Jim Dutton told commander Dom Gorie it is going to be a close call whether the clouds will improve in time for the day's first deorbit burn opportunity.

2104 GMT (5:04 p.m. EDT)

The shuttle's galley down on the middeck has been deactivated.

2056 GMT (4:56 p.m. EDT)

The latest data from Mission Control shows the upcoming deorbit burn ignition time will be 5:58:44 p.m. EDT. The twin braking rockets will fire for two minutes and 46 seconds.

2049 GMT (4:49 p.m. EDT)

The crew has been given a "go" to start the "fluid loading" protocol. That involves drinking large amounts of liquids and salt tablets to assist in the readaptation to Earth's gravity. Water, chicken consomme, orange and lemon-lime drinks are on the menu for the astronauts to pick from.

"Enjoy!" CAPCOM Jim Dutton told commander Dom Gorie.

2040 GMT (4:40 p.m. EDT)

A deck of broken clouds south of the runway will be investigated by the weather aircraft. Skies look better to the north of the landing strip where Endeavour will make its turn and fly the final approach to touchdown.

2022 GMT (4:22 p.m. EDT)

Director of Flight Crew Operations Brent Jett, a former shuttle commander, just took off from the KSC runway aboard the Shuttle Training Aircraft for weather reconnaissance flights around the Cape area.

2010 GMT (4:10 p.m. EDT)

Commander Dom Gorie is climbing into his bright orange launch and entry spacesuit. He'll be strapping into the flight deck's left-forward seat shortly while the rest of the crewmembers don their suits.

2005 GMT (4:05 p.m. EDT)

Now three hours from touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center.

The weather outlook for today's first landing opportunity is looking favorable for Endeavour's return to Earth. The deorbit burn to brake from orbit would occur at 5:58 p.m. EDT, leading to touchdown on Runway 15 at 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Meteorologists are predicting conditions at landing time to include scattered clouds at 5,000 feet, seven miles of visibility and easterly winds from 090 degrees at 8 peaking to 12 knots. That equates to a crosswind of 11 knots for Runway 15.

1955 GMT (3:55 p.m. EDT)

The crew is beginning the procedures to stow the star trackers and close their protective doors on the nose of Endeavour. The devices are used during the mission as part of the spacecraft's navigation system.

1948 GMT (3:48 p.m. EDT)

The onboard software switch has been completed.

1926 GMT (3:26 p.m. EDT)

Endeavour'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, with touchdown at 7:05 p.m. EDT.

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.

1921 GMT (3:21 p.m. EDT)

The starboard door is shut. Now the forward- and aft-bulkhead latches will be locked, followed by the centerline latches between the two doors.

1919 GMT (3:19 p.m. EDT)

The port door has been closed. The crew is preparing to close the starboard door now.

1917 GMT (3:17 p.m. EDT)

The left-hand door is swinging shut.

1913 GMT (3:13 p.m. EDT)

Good operation of the flash evaporator system has been seen in telemetry from the shuttle. And with that, the "go" has been radioed to the crew for payload bay door closing.

1858 GMT (2:58 p.m. EDT)

Mission Control has given the crew a "go" to configure the orbiter for closing the 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.

1845 GMT (2:45 p.m. EDT)

Read our latest story on the landing preps.

1810 GMT (2:10 p.m. EDT)

"We just took the weather brief and it's looking really nice," CAPCOM Jim Dutton radioed commander Dom Gorie a short time ago. "The forecast remains go."

Meteorologists are predicting scattered clouds at 5,000 feet (higher than the earlier 3,500 feet forecast), seven miles of visibility and easterly winds of 8 gusting to 12 knots, equating to an 11-knot crosswind and 5-knot headwind for Runway 15.

"The clouds have lifted a bit, but overall we'll be keeping a track of those. But we think it's looking really nice to get you home on the first opportunity," Dutton said.

1805 GMT (2:05 p.m. EDT)

At this point in the landing preps, Endeavour is being put in the cold-soak attitude in which the thermal protection system is pointed at deep space as a conditioning measure prior to reentry. And this has been proven over the years to help keep the avionics' temperatures in check during the landing.

1720 GMT (1:20 p.m. EDT)

The shuttle crew has gotten an early start on deorbit preparations for today's return from space. Setting up equipment in the middeck, configuring the airlock and an alignment of the inertial measurement units is underway right now.

The astronauts were awakened at 10 a.m. EDT by Train's "Drops of Jupiter" played for pilot Greg Johnson to begin Flight Day 17.

The entry flight control team has begun its shift in Mission Control. The preps are leading toward closure of the payload bay doors at 3:18 p.m. EDT.

The deorbit burn remains targeted for 5:58 p.m. EDT, with touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 at 7:05 p.m.

The landing time weather forecast still calls for scattered clouds, good visibility and an 11-knot crosswind from the east.

TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2008

The Endeavour astronauts tested the shuttle's re-entry systems Tuesday and packed for landing Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center to close out a 16-day space station assembly mission. Entry Flight Director Richard Jones said the shuttle is in good shape and the weather is "go" for a late afternoon descent.

Read our full story.

1545 GMT (11:45 a.m. EDT)

The Endeavour astronauts faced a busy day in space today, testing the shuttle's re-entry systems and packing up for landing Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center to close out a 16-day space station assembly mission. There are no technical problems of any significance and forecasters are predicting good weather for Endeavour's 7:05 p.m. Wednesday touchdown.

Read our full story.

0650 GMT (2:50 a.m. EDT)

Analysis of metallic contamination from a critical solar array rotary joint on the international space station indicates a "high-friction event" of some sort, possibly a misaligned bearing roller or some other like defect, has chewed up and damaged one of the surfaces of a 10-foot-wide gear and bearing race, the station's program manager said Monday.

Read our full story.

0204 GMT (10:04 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The shuttle is quickly departing the immediate vicinity of the space station following separation burn No. 2 at 10:03 p.m. EDT.

The astronauts will have a few quiet hours this evening before heading to bed. Tomorrow will be spent stowing gear in Endeavour's cabin and checking the ship's reentry flight control systems.

Endeavour is targeting a landing Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The planned homecoming would begin with the deorbit burn braking maneuver at 5:58 p.m. EDT, leading to touchdown on Runway 15 at 7:05 p.m. EDT, a half-hour before sunset.

If a problem prevents the shuttle from deorbiting as scheduled, Endeavour would remain in space and shoot for Florida one orbit later. That would begin with a deorbit burn at 7:33 p.m., leading to a nighttime touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's concrete Runway 15 at 8:39 p.m. EDT.

Good weather is predicted at the Florida spaceport. The forecast for Wednesday evening's first landing opportunity calls for scattered clouds at 3,500 feet, good visibility and easterly winds of 8 gusting to 12 knots, equating to an 11-knot crosswind and 5-knot head/tailwind.

The backup landing opportunity one-orbit later calls for just a few clouds at 3,500 feet, good visibility and easterly winds of 7 gusting to 10 knots, equating to a 9-knot crosswind and 4-knot head/tailwind.

The landing maps showing Endeavour's reentry ground track to Kennedy Space Center are posted here.

With the favorable weather outlook, the alternate landing sites at California's Edwards Air Force Base and New Mexico's White Sands won't be called up for Wednesday.

0203 GMT (10:03 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The shuttle is 5,000 feet above and behind the station.

0148 GMT (9:48 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Endeavour is 1,700 feet over the station and continuing to move further above and behind the complex. The second separation burn is coming up shortly.

0136 GMT (9:36 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The shuttle just performed the first of two separation engine firings. Endeavour 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.

0132 GMT (9:32 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The spacecraft are passing over France now.

0128 GMT (9:28 p.m. EDT Mon.)

A time-lapsed photograph showing the shuttle and station streaking over Daytona Beach, Florida a few minutes ago is posted here. The image was taken by Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now.

0125 GMT (9:25 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Sixty minutes since undocking. The flyaround is nearing completion as the spacecraft cross the North Atlantic.

0123 GMT (9:23 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The shuttle is beneath the station now at a distance of 630 feet.

0121 GMT (9:21 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Traveling at five miles per second, Endeavour and the station are skirting just south of Nova Scotia.

0118 GMT (9:18 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The craft just flew between Norfolk and Virginia Beach, then crossed the coastline to head outbound across the Atlantic Ocean.

0117 GMT (9:17 p.m. EDT Mon.)

As Endeavour continues to fly the circle around the space station, the craft are more than 200 miles above North Carolina now, just west of Greenville.

0117 GMT (9:17 p.m. EDT Mon.)

This orbital track is just inland of the southeastern seaboard. The path is taking the spacecraft to west of Savannah and Charleston now.

0114 GMT (9:14 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The spacecraft have just crossed southern Mexico on a northeastward trajectory over the Gulf, bound for the nighttime skies above Florida, flying just east of Tallahassee, the subsequently into Georgia, soaring almost overhead Valdosta.

0112 GMT (9:12 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Endeavour 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. Distance between the two craft has grown to 700 feet.

0102 GMT (9:02 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The shuttle and station are nearing an orbital sunset and passage above Mexico, the Gulf and Southeastern U.S. The spacecraft will be visible to observers as a bright, fast-moving star in the evening sky, traveling southwest to northeast.

0057 GMT (8:57 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Endeavour 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 Endeavour 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 Endeavour away from the vicinity of the station.

0051 GMT (8:51 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Pilot Greg Johnson has begun flying Endeavour in a one-lap flyaround of the station.

0046 GMT (8:46 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Distance separating Endeavour and the station has increased beyond 300 feet.

0039 GMT (8:39 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Now 200 feet between the shuttle and station as the craft fly due south of Australia.

0031 GMT (8:31 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Endeavour is now 80 feet from the station, backing away at about 0.2 feet per second. The shuttle is headed to a point a few hundred feet away where it will fire thrusters to begin an arc above the station.

0028 GMT (8:28 p.m. EDT Mon.)

The undocking is occurring more than 200 miles over the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia.

0025 GMT (8:25 p.m. EDT Mon.)

UNDOCKING! Endeavour is departing the space station for return to Earth, capping the longest-ever stay of a space shuttle at the international complex, at 11 days, 20 hours and 36 minutes. This marathon mission accomplished five spacewalks, more than any previous shuttle visit to the station, and continued construction of the outpost by delivering the Kibo logistics module, the first of three elements that will comprise Japan's portion of the station, and assembled Canada's two-armed robot named Dextre, a maintenance handyman to be used on the station's exterior.

0022 GMT (8:22 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Three minutes from the rescheduled undocking time of 8:25 p.m. The steering jets on Endeavour 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 Greg Johnson will fire Endeavour's thrusters to continue the movement away. Once a few hundred feet out in front of the station, the shuttle will begin a one-lap flyaround of the complex.

0019 GMT (8:19 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Positive news just received from the station control room indicates the latches have engaged. And the "go" for undocking was just given to the Endeavour astronauts. The shuttle will leave the station at 8:25 p.m. EDT.

0016 GMT (8:16 p.m. EDT Mon.)

Undocking remains on hold, pending a successful solar array gimbal latching. Results from the latest commanding attempt should be known in about five minutes, the crew was just told.

Read our earlier status center coverage.



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