Cargo transfer module mounted to the station
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 7, 2006
Astronauts aboard the international space station, operating the lab's Canadian-built robot arm, gently plucked a 10-ton cargo module from the shuttle Discovery's payload bay today for attachment to the international space station.
The multi-purpose logistics module, or MPLM, was robotically bolted to the Unity module's downward-facing, or nadir, port shortly after 8 a.m.
Known as Leonardo, the Italian-built cargo module is loaded with about 5,100 pounds of supplies and equipment, including a high-tech laboratory freezer, a European plant biology experiment rack and a U.S.-built oxygen generator that ultimately will help support a crew of six.
The mating procedure was interrupted briefly when the astronauts reported what appeared to be foreign object debris, or FOD, near critical seals where the modules lock together, but flight controllers said it posed no threat and the crew was told to continue the mating operation.
With the module safely in place, shuttle commander Steve Lindsey and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter will begin the work to activate and open Leonardo while pilot Mark Kelly, Lisa Nowak and Stephanie Wilson begin work with the shuttle's robot arm to carry out additional inspections of the shuttle's heat shield.
NASA's Mission Management Team has identified five so-called "areas of interest" for focused inspections to double-check potential damage sites seen during earlier surveys:
In the morning "execute package" uplinked to the astronauts, the Mission Management Team reported that a small left-pointing steering jet known as L5L had dropped below the minimum temperature needed for safe operation. The jet experienced a heater problem during Discovery's countdown and while it was warm enough to use during Thursday's rendezvous and docking with the space station, it is now disabled. The station's four big control moment gyroscopes normally control the attitude, or orientation, of the mated station/shuttle spacecraft, but for larger movements needed for shuttle water dumps Saturday and next Tuesday, flight controllers may use Discovery's larger primary jets. The station's thrusters also can be used if necessary.
The Mission Management Team also reviewed the status of a balky flash evaporator, used during launch and re-entry to provide cooling to the shuttle's electronics, that acted up during ascent July 4. The shuttle has two such systems but they are critical and engineers are working up a post-undocking troubleshooting plan to collect additional insight into the operation of flash evaporator system B.
Otherwise, the MMT had little to report.
"The MMT reviewed the pad debris environment and vehicle performance during ascent. Pad B is in very good shape after a slight sand blasting by the SRBs (solid rocket boosters). No vehicle flight hardware has been found and the Pad environment was considered to be very nominal based on previous flight experience. Additionally, the preliminary ascent data shows that powered flight and post MECO (main engine cutoff) were very nominal with no issues. The ET umbilical photography also showed that the tank performed very well and a summary of those pictures will be provided later in the mission for your review."
Review of wing leading edge laser scans Wednesday is nearly complete and initial analysis of photographs of the shuttle's belly during an end-over-end flip during final approach to the station "indicates that the tile is in good shape with very little damage," the MMT reported. A more extensive discussion of that photography will take place later today.
Getting Leonardo attached and unloaded is a major objective of Discovery's mission. Just as important, the cargo module will be used to bring down no-longer-needed equipment and trash.
"We're re-supplying them with some rack experiments, a lot of food, clothing, things like that, hardware replacements - there's a whole laundry list of things that we're supplying to the space station," Lindsey said in a NASA interview. "The other purpose, of course, of the MPLM is to bring things down. And so, we're going to bring back a whole bunch of stuff that they don't need anymore. That includes experiment samples, used articles they're not using anymore, and trash - you name it.
"One of the issues with space station since we've lost Columbia is we've been putting things on board, but we haven't been able to get very many things off. So, one of the goals will be to help them with their stowage issues and logistics issues by bringing a bunch of things off the space station as well."
Once Leonardo has been robotically bolted in place, the astronauts will perform leak checks to make sure the MPLM is firmly mated to Unity and pressurize the vestibule between Unity and the supply module. Then they'll open the module, float inside and begin the process of moving supplies into the space station.