Astronauts begin first full day in orbit
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 1, 2008
The Discovery astronauts were awakened for their first full day in space at 7:02 a.m. today by a recording of "Your Wildest Dreams" by the Moody Blues beamed up from mission control. The major items on today's agenda include spacesuit checkout for upcoming station assembly spacewalks by Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan; rendezvous and docking preparations; and an inspection of the shuttle's heat shield.
Several relatively large pieces of foam insulation from Discovery's external tank fell away during launch Saturday and while one or two may have struck the orbiter, the incidents occurred after the shuttle was out of the dense lower atmosphere when such impacts pose a threat to the heat shield. Even so, a thermal protection system inspection is standard procedure on flight day two.
But Discovery is not equipped with an orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS) heat shield inspection boom normally used to examine the ship's reinforced carbon carbon nose cap and wing leading edge panels the day after launch. Discovery's payload - the Japanese Kibo lab module - is so big the boom could not be carried. Instead, the crew of the most recent station assembly mission left their boom behind on the lab complex and Discovery's crew will retrieve it during a spacewalk Tuesday, the day after docking.
The boom will be used later in the mission to carry out a normal post-undocking inspection and possibly a so-called focused inspection on June 6.
About two hours after crew wakeup today, the astronauts downlinked video shot by Karen Nyberg showing the external tank after separation from the shuttle Saturday. The tank was fairly far away and to the untrained eye, there were no obvious signs of damage or major foam loss. But the video and still photos shot by Fossum will be examined in detail by analysts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
For today's inspection, the astronauts will simply use a camera on the end of Discovery's robot arm to inspect the areas of the wings and nose cap that are accessible without the 50-foot-long OBSS extension. But without the boom's laser scanner and high-resolution camera system, the astronauts will not be able to detect the kind of small-scale damage the OBSS was designed to find.
Another complicating factor is the robot arm's elbow camera. Because of clearance issues, the elbow camera is locked in place and cannot be used until later in the mission.
"On flight day two ... we are limited to pretty much the upper surfaces of the leading edges of the wings," said lead Flight Director Matt Abbott. "And that's due partly because of the arm itself and partly because we don't have access with the elbow camera. That means we can't really reach underneath, look too much underneath the port wing, because it's hard to tell the clearances of the arm, the movements of the arm, and the payload bay door. And so that elbow camera does restrict us a little bit.
"But the robotics teams have worked with the imagery teams to use the camera on the end effector to get a really good handle on the status of the upper surface of both the starboard and port wings. It's really the underneath surfaces we're a little bit limited on on flight day two. We actually do get a little bit of the lower surface of the port wing. So clearly not anything close to the data we usually get with the orbiter boom sensor system."
But today's video, in combination with launch imagery, sensor data and photographs shot by the station crew during the shuttle's final approach to the lab complex, will allow engineers to assess the overall health of the heat shield until the OBSS can be used later for a small-scale inspection.
"Given all that, we feel pretty good about our capabilities to see any kind of significant damage during those scans," Abbott said. "Moving on to the middle of the mission, we do have an opportunity for a focused inspection if necessary, if there are any areas of interest that have been determined up to that point."
Shuttle pilot Ken Ham said he's confident engineers will have the data they need to clear the heat shield for entry at the end of the mission.
"After we undock, then we go back to doing what every other flight has done on flight day two, which is the real thorough inspection of the leading edges of the wings," Ham said. "And we are in a situation where we've preserved enough propellant that if we find something that we deem to be critical or jeopardize our success for entry, we can come back to station and dock. So it's a pretty well thought out plan."
OBSS inspections take quite a bit of time. Without the boom for today's inspection, the crew will enjoy a slightly more relaxed timeline and participate in media interviews starting around 3:47 p.m.
Here is a schedule of today's activities (in EDT and mission elapsed time; includes rev. A of the NASA television schedule):
DATE/EDT...DD...HH...MM...EVENT 06/01/08 07:02 AM...00...14...00...Crew wakeup 09:22 AM...00...16...20...Ergometer setup 09:52 AM...00...16...50...Spacesuit checkout preps 10:02 AM...00...17...00...Laptop computer setup (part 2) 10:21 AM...00...17...19...NC-2 rendezvous rocket firing 10:22 AM...00...17...20...Spacesuit checkout 11:07 AM...00...18...05...Shuttle robot arm (SRMS) powerup 11:22 AM...00...18...20...SRMS checkout 12:07 PM...00...19...05...SRMS end effector heat shield survey 02:17 PM...00...21...15...SRMS payload bay survey 02:47 PM...00...21...45...Crew meal 03:47 PM...00...22...45...Media interviews 04:07 PM...00...23...05...Spacewalk equipment prepped for transfer 04:07 PM...00...23...05...Centerline docking camera setup 04:30 PM...00...23...28...Mission status briefing on NTV 04:37 PM...00...23...35...Orbiter docking system ring extension 05:07 PM...01...00...05...Shuttle waste/water dump nozzle inspection 05:12 PM...01...00...10...OMS rocket pod survey 05:47 PM...01...00...45...Rendezvous tools checkout 06:32 PM...01...01...30...Video playback 07:22 PM...01...02...20...NC-3 rendezvous rocket firing 10:32 PM...01...05...30...Crew sleep begins 11:00 PM...02...05...58...Daily video highlights reel on NTVDiscovery's systems came through launch in good condition. The only technical problem of any significance was trouble with a backup actuator system used to move Discovery's left-side orbital maneuvering system rocket nozzle. The engine can be used without the backup steering system, but flight controllers have decided to simply park it and use the right-side engine alone for upcoming station rendezvous rocket firings. The left-side engine will be employed as usual for re-entry at the end of the mission.