Shuttle set to undock; Russian computers tested
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 18, 2007
The Atlantis astronauts bid farewell to the international space station's crew late today, floating out of the Destiny laboratory module one by one before sealing hatches and gearing up for undocking Tuesday morning.
In a brief farewell ceremony, shuttle commander Rick Sturckow thanked Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer Oleg Kotov and newly arrived engineer/science officer Clay Anderson for a successful, if difficult mission. Anderson's predecessor, Sunita Williams, looked on, winding up a record six-month stay in orbit.
"It's been a great mission but all good things come to an end," Sturckow said. "We've had a wonderful time up here with the Expedition 15 crew. We've swapped out crew members and brought Clay Anderson to your crew, Fyodor, and we'll take Suni Williams home. I know you'll miss her. She's a joy to work with, but it's time for her to go back to planet Earth.
"We're very happy about the success of the installation of the S3/S4 (solar array) truss, it's fully operational, and many other tasks were accomplished. We faced some adversity together but through the joint efforts of our crews and working with our flight control centers in Houston and in Moscow, the problems were overcome and the mission was a success. Thank you very much."
Yurchikhin then took the microphone and speaking in accented English, said "the time was very interesting, the time coming too slowly and going too fast."
"Only 10 days ago we wait for launch of shuttle," Yurchikhin said. "Ten days, too short time. But very precious time. And now we can say the shuttle crew did very well, all tasks. And of course, we had some problems and thank you very much, of course, to MCC-Houston and MCC-Moscow because everybody on ground worked very hard, all day, all night with us. Because we are one big crew, everybody, and now we would like to say goodbye shuttle, have a good, safe landing."
If all goes well, Atlantis will undock from the space station at 10:42 a.m. Tuesday. Landing back at the Kennedy Space Center is targeted for 1:54 p.m. Thursday, although predicted clouds and thunderstorms could cause problems. Atlantis has enough on-board supplies to stay in orbit and make landing attempts Friday and Saturday if bad weather or other problems prevent an on-time touchdown in Florida on Thursday.
Phil Engelauf, chief of the flight director's office, said late today the station's revived computer system appeared to be operating normally after a complex test earlier today to make sure it could safely orient the station as required after Atlantis departs.
"We're happy to report at the end of the game here we have everything working as it's supposed to," he said. "All of the checkouts today seemed to have left the computers working well and we're in good shape as we're getting ready to undock tomorrow."
But engineers still don't know what caused power supply surge protectors to fail last week, knocking the computers out of action. Some engineers suspect the failures were triggered by some sort of change in the station's power grid when a new set of solar arrays was installed by the Atlantis astronauts. But so far, engineers have not found anything obvious.
In any case, the computers were revived Friday and Saturday after Yurchikhin and Kotov bypassed the protective circuitry with jumper cables.
"We have the computers in a configuration that appears to be working nominally at this time," Engelauf said. "But admittedly, there has been a bypass, or a modification, made that puts these computers not in their nominal configuration. And so, the owners of that hardware, the Russian flight control community, are still looking very closely at the performance of that system and are evaluating its robustness.
"While we believe the station is in a very good configuration right now and appears to be operating nominally, we still haven't found what folks would call a 'smoking gun' that can identify exactly what caused the initial problem."