Assembly required: Setting up space-age treadmill tricky
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
Posted: September 16, 2000
"The only things we have left (are) what we call some bonus food, which is basically some special desserts and things for the crew and the two (water bags) that we filled yesterday," said Sharon Castle, the STS-106 launch package manager.
"We're essentially complete with all the pre-flight planned work. Things are going extremely well and we're obviously very happy."
The major item on the crew's agenda today was assembly of the treadmill and its vibration isolation system, equipment that effectively prevents vibrations from jogging space station crew members from disturbing future microgravity experiments.
Early today, the astronauts ran into problems getting bolt holes and guides to line up.
"We had a couple of hiccups early in the day," said station flight director Mark Ferring. "We were trying to install the right front stabilizer, which is one of the isolaters they use to ensure they get microgravity later in flight - it isolates the treadmill from the structure - and there's an alignment stud that they use to just align it properly, to line up the bolt holes.
"For some reason, that alignment stud was not quite long enough to engage into a keyway slot," he said. "So what we ended up doing is taking off the keyway slot, since this alignment stud isn't a load-carrying piece of the structure and we had one other alignment pin that we did use. We lined up all the bolts, we put in the bolts and everything worked fine after that."
While that work was going on, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko carried out additional tests of a Russian packet communications system that will be used to send and receive data to and from the ground. The system did not work properly Friday, but after reconfiguring on-board equipment it appeared to work normally today.
"After demating and mating the cable and attempting to flow telemetry through that cable again, that was non functional still, so they think they have a hard failure somewhere in that Progress," Ferring said.
The system is triply redundant and in any case, the Progress-251 vehicle, now loaded with trash and other discarded material, will be jettisoned to burn up in the atmosphere in a few weeks.
On another front, Ferring said, "we're in the process of setting up an ISS video conference with the equipment in the (U.S. node module), which is another alternate means of communicating with the crew for Expedition One. We've run into some configuration problems on the ground that we're still working on, (but) we're confident we'll get that worked out."
As of the close of business Friday morning, the astronauts had transferred 4,285 pounds of supplies and equipment from the shuttle to the space station and moved another 762 pounds of gear from the station to Atlantis for return to Earth.
Earlier in the mission, 1,300 pounds of logistics were moved from the Progress-251 vehicle into the station.
"At this point, we think we're going to get everything done," said lead flight director Phil Engelauf. "In fact, the crew was doing so well on the timeline yesterday that we spent some time ... trying to pull together any additional tasks we could do (before leaving).
"Some of the shopping list of activities we have consists of re-stowing some items in a few different places and doing just a little bit more additional work to try to get different work sites in the vehicle set up in anticipation of the arrival of the Expedition crew to try to speed their work along a little better," he said.
"Tomorrow is mostly going to be an egress day," Ferring said. "They're going to button up the station, they're going to back out and make sure they have the right pressures across all the hatches and shut everything down gracefully. That's going to take the lion's share of the day.
"They will complete a final TVIS (treadmill) checkout, they will be changing out some filters in the dust collector system in the Zarya, they'll also be changing out the harmful contaminant filter in the Zarya."
If all goes well, Atlantis will undock from the international space station at 11:44 p.m. Sunday after six days of docked activity. Landing back at the Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 3:56 a.m. Wednesday.
The only question mark at this point is the weather, with possible rain and high winds from tropical storm activity near the space center.
Even with a one-day mission extension, Engelauf said the astronauts will have enough propellant and other supplies to make at least two landing attempts at either Kennedy or Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"The weather looking towards the Cape seems to be headed in the wrong direction," he said today, "but I would also caution this far in advance it's real difficult to predict."
The Atlantis crew send greetings and best wishes to the athletes gathered in Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Summer Olympics.
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