Astronauts enjoy some
mid-mission off-duty time
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: March 19, 2008
Midway through a grueling 16-day mission, the Endeavour astronauts and their space station counterparts enjoyed a second half-day off today, taking a call this evening from Japan's prime minister and fielding questions from reporters before gearing up for a fourth spacewalk Thursday.
In an interview with CBS News, station commander Peggy Whitson said the time off was a welcome break.
"We're having a great time, taking a break, just relaxing a little bit," she said. "I think we really needed it. For the station guys and for the shuttle guys, we had to do a pretty big sleep shift to get to this time, to (get in synch) with the launch and the landing and everything. So it was nice to be able to get eight hours of sleep."
The Endeavour crew gave flight engineer Garrett Reisman a lift to the space station. He will remain behind when the shuttle undocks next Monday night and European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts will return to Earth in his place after a month and a half in orbit.
Asked to describe the fast-growing space station, Reisman said the crew was struck by the view during final approach and similarities with the famous space station scene in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kurbrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke died Tuesday at the age of 90.
"It's interesting you should bring that up," Reisman said. "As we were rendezvousing, a bunch of us commented about that movie and how much the view out the window of the space station approaching, all we needed was 'The Blue Danube' playing in the background and it would have been just like the movie.
"Coming in from the shuttle, which is relatively small volume, it was pretty overwhelming. It's amazing how big station is, it's about the same size from stem to stern as a Boeing 767 and it's been astonishing to me how long it takes just to get from one end to the other. It's so big, you actually have to plan how you carry your stuff around because if you have to go back and get something, it takes time. And that's really marvelous."
For his part, Eyharts said he's looking forward to seeing his family again. And returning to a bit more relaxed life style.
"Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing my family after seven weeks on board the station," he said. "It has been a relatively short flight for a (station crew member), but very busy, with two shuttle flights and a lot of work with Columbus. So I'm looking forward also to having a little bit of rest and kind of a normal life back on Earth."
Linnehan, veteran of three spacewalks during Endeavour's mission and three during a 2002 Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight, provided an interesting insight into what it's like to walk in space.
"We were talking about this yesterday. I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to have gone to Hubble and now the station," he said. "You know, we talk about 'spacewalks' but it's a bit of a misnomer. It's more like 'space floating' You're really not out there walking. I guess the best analogy I can tell everybody is, if you can imagine yourself scuba diving in a suit of armor, that's about what spacewalking is like."
The astronauts were awakened for their 10th "day" in space around 1:40 p.m. by a recording of Elvis Presley's "Burning Love" radioed up from Houston.
"Good morning, Endeavour, these were words from the 'King' for another sort of king, I guess, captain, U.S. Navy, MIke Foreman," radioed Canadian astronaut Julie Payette. "Good morning to you all."
"Good morning, Houston, and thank you Elvis," Foreman replied. "And I especially want to thank my wife, Lorrie, whom I've been with for a long time and I still have a burning love for her. I couldn't do it without you."
The Canadian Space Agency's Dextre maintenance robot, now fully assembled and mounted on the Destiny lab module, is in good shape and ready for use when needed. Station Flight Director Ginger Kerrick said one minor glitch during testing Tuesday, when the robot's waist joint turned the opposite direction from what controllers expected, can easily be fixed with a software patch.
"It is on its new temporary home on the lab," Kerrick said. "I say temporary, but it'll stay there until we have a planned use for it. Right now, we don't have a planned use for it until the 2 J/A mission sometime next spring. It's in great shape. You may have heard about some software funnies as we attached it to the lab yesterday. We have taken a look at that, we understand what happened and it's just going to take a quick fix, nothing to worry about and no concerns for future operations."
Work with the mission's other major payload, a Japanese equipment storage room now attached to the station's Harmony module, also is complete, as are a variety of get-ahead tasks. The storage module ultimately will be attached to Japan's huge Kibo pressurized laboratory module, scheduled for attachment to the station in late May.
"There's not a whole lot of exciting things to tell you about that right now," Kerrick said of the logistics module. "They are done. They were pretty much done with the setup yesterday, not only on the activities that were scheduled for this docked mission, but also for the activities that were scheduled after the shuttle left, before the arrival of the next shuttle. So you'll see a couple of five- to 10-minute activities on the timeline but it's really just to take pictures and to document the configuration that it's in."
Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, Whitson and shuttle commander Dom Gorie chatted with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda this evening, showing off the newly attached logistics module and answering questions from school kids.
"Doi-san, thank you for the hard work. Congratulations on the completion of the first stage of (the attachment of) Kibo," Fukuda said in Japanese. "Congratulations. Doi-san, for a very long time have been engaged in this project. How do you feel now, the fact that you've completed the first step, what is your impression? What are your thoughts?"
"Hello, prime minister, from space station," Doi replied. "Kibo module is filled with the dreams of the Japanese people. I'm very happy to be able to complete the first step, the attachment. People on the ground have been working hard supporting us up in space and we thank all of you very much indeed."
Said Whitson: "It's been a very special honor to me to welcome JAXA (the Japanese space agency) officially aboard the space station with the addition of this module. We are very happy to have Kibo up here with us."
Here is an updated timeline of today's activity (in EDT and mission elapsed time; includes revision G of the NASA television schedule):
EDT........DD...HH...MM...EVENT 03/19/08 02:58 PM...08...12...30...ISS crew off duty 04:28 PM...08...14...00...STS crew off duty 07:08 PM...08...16...40...Japanese VIP event 08:58 PM...08...18...30...CBS News, NBC News, WMUR-TV interviews 09:28 PM...08...19...00...Joint crew meal 11:00 PM...08...20...32...Mission status briefing on NASA TV 11:13 PM...08...20...45...T-RAD tile repair preps 11:58 PM...08...21...30...EVA-4: Tools configured 03/20/08 01:28 AM...08...23...00...EVA-4: Procedures review 03:43 AM...09...01...15...EVA-4: Mask pre-breathe/tool config 04:38 AM...09...02...10...EVA-1: Airlock depress to 10.2 psi 04:58 AM...09...02...30...ISS crew sleep begins 05:28 AM...09...03...00...STS crew sleep begins 06:00 AM...09...03...32...Daily video highlights reel on NASA TV 10:30 AM...09...08...32...Flight director update on NASA TV 01:28 PM...09...11...00...Crew wakeup