Thanksgiving in space
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: November 27, 2008
Celebrating Thanksgiving in space, the crews of the international space station and the shuttle Endeavour enjoyed a half-day off today, looking forward to sharing a turkey dinner in orbit before saying farewell and closing hatches between the two spacecraft to set the stage for undocking Friday.
The astronauts were awakened to begin their holiday in space just after 7 a.m. by a recording of "Hold Tight to Your Dreams" by the Electric Light Orchestra that was beamed up from mission control.
"Good morning, Endeavour," astronaut Shannon Lucid called from Houston. "A special good morning to you today, Heide, and happy Thanksgiving to the entire crew."
"Good morning to you, Shannon, and the rest of Houston," Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper replied. "Thank you for that great song on this Thanksgiving day. We can give thanks for what we have and never stop dreaming."
The two crews are able to enjoy Thanksgiving together thanks to a one-day mission extension that delayed undocking to Friday. As it is, they plan to enjoy a joint meal around 1:40 p.m. that will feature traditional holiday fare.
"We have 10 crew members on board, we've managed to scare up a full Thanksgiving dinner, complements of some rations the food people back in Houston were nice enough to put together for us," shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson said earlier. "We'll have a true Thanksgiving feast where we'll share a meal with our international space station counterparts and we'll share some stories, I'm sure, and we'll just enjoy the turkey."
Space station Flight Director Emily Nelson said the crews deserved a break.
"It's just been a really great mission and we are happy these guys are going to get a little bit of time off to appreciate the stars and what they can see in low-Earth orbit and to look down on us and see this beautiful planet of ours," she said early today. "We look forward to getting them back on the ground and getting to celebrate with them in person."
Joint shuttle-station crews "tend to eat back in the (Russian) service module of the space station," she said. "So they'll have their Thanksgiving dinner together, we assume they'll probably be eating back there. We don't have cameras back in there so they can get a little privacy from us. They'll have the standard turkey, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole and some cranberry crumble for desert."
Outgoing station flight engineer Gregory Chamitoff, launched to the lab complex May 31, will return to Earth aboard Endeavour. He was replaced by flight engineer Sandra Magnus. Early today, while his crewmates slept, Chamitoff enjoyed an unhurried conversation with Robert Hanley in mission control.
"It's a real privilege to be part of all this," he reflected. "You know, this is kind of a turning point. There's only one space station. Someday, there'll be many and there will be other places to go other than this one space station. So it's really an honor for us to be part of this turning point for humanity. It's amazing."
"We just celebrated the 10th anniversary (of the station) and a lot of us, almost everybody around here, worked the very first (missions) and remember when the station was just contents and small pieces," Hanley said. "Now, it's amazing it's become what we envisioned."
"Yeah, it really has," Chamitoff said. "It's taken the whole world to build this place. ... This has been a really amazing life experience to be here."
"It's been a great six months working with you on the station."
"Yeah, thanks, it's really hard to leave," Chamitoff said. "I'm looking forward to coming back and seeing everybody on the ground. It'll be fun to celebrate."
Chamitoff will join Stefanyshyn-Piper, Ferguson, pilot Eric Boe, Don Pettit, Stephen Bowen and Robert "Shane" Kimbrough for the trip home Sunday. A farewell ceremony with station commander Mike Fincke, flight engineer Yury Lonchakov and Magnus is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. Hatches between Endeavour and the station will be closed a few minutes later to set the stage for undocking Friday at 9:47 a.m.
The astronauts staged four spacewalks during the mission and moved more than 16,000 pounds of equipment and supplies from the shuttle to station, including critical water recycling gear needed to boost the lab's crew size from three to six next year.
Despite initial problems, the astronauts were able to activate the water processing system, collecting samples for return to Earth aboard Endeavour, and successfully serviced the station's damaged right-side solar array rotary mechanism.
Today, the astronauts were rewarded with time off to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving.
Station Flight Director Holly Ridings said the crew's flight schedule was adjusted to synchronize shuttle and station crew off-duty periods "so that all of them can spend the first part of their day together, as a crew, as a team and enjoy Thanksgiving."
"The first half of the crew day up until the midday meal is basically off-duty time," she said. "So they have roughly half of their day that they can enjoy each other's company. During that time we do have the right KU-band antenna coverage where they'll be able to use their (internet) phone that they have on board to call people here on the ground and of course, since the mission lines up pretty nicely with central standard time hours they'll be able to find people awake, which is always a bonus. We have several opportunities to uplink and downlink email."
In mission control at the Johnson Space Center, where an image of a turkey replaced the space station on NASA's big tracking map, "we have folks that are willing to feed our flight control teams," Ridings said. "They'll be bringing Thanksgiving to us. They'll do it several times, actually. They'll start Wednesday night pretty late to hit that overnight shift that gets done at 5 and 6 o'clock in the morning. Then they'll bring food again at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving and they'll do it it one more time later that day. They do a really good job of taking care of us."
Here is an updated timeline of today's activity (in EST and mission elapsed time; includes revision M of the NASA television schedule):
EST........DD...HH...MM...EVENT 11/27/08 06:55 AM...12...11...00...Crew wakeup 08:25 AM...12...12...30...ISS daily planning conference 09:10 AM...12...13...15...ISS crew off duty 09:20 AM...12...13...25...Shuttle crew off duty 01:21 PM...12...17...26...Crew interviews 01:40 PM...12...17...45...Thanksgiving meal 02:40 PM...12...18...45...EVA transfers 02:50 PM...12...18...55...Final middeck transfers 03:30 PM...12...19...35...Mission status briefing on NASA TV 04:55 PM...12...21...00...Rendezvous tools checkout 04:55 PM...12...21...00...Departure preps 05:55 PM...12...22...00...Farewell ceremony 06:00 PM...12...22...05...Hatches closed 06:20 PM...12...22...25...Orbiter docking system leak checks 07:00 PM...12...23...05...Evening planning conference 09:25 PM...13...01...30...ISS crew sleep begins 09:55 PM...13...02...00...STS crew sleep begins 10:00 PM...13...02...05...Flight day 14 highlights 11/28/08 06:55 AM...13...10...00...Crew wakeup 08:30 AM...13...12...35...HD flight day 14 highlights 09:47 AM...13...13...52...Endeavour undocks from space station
"This is a very busy time for all of us," Ferguson said earlier. "I really don't think we've had time to prepare for the holidays at all. I do know we plan to get together ... for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Of course, it gives us a moment to pause and reflect on just how fortunate we are as a country and as a global community to participate in a partnership like this. ... Truly, it gives us an opportunity to come together as a global community and we're very thankful for that in addition to the opportunity to fly in space."
Added Fincke: "We all miss our families when we're gone away for the holidays and we're just another military family with one of the parents deployed."
"We're just like every other military family, we miss our loved ones when we're gone. but we're going to come home and we're going to have a really nice time when we're all together," he said. "So for that I'm very thankful, and I'm thankful for all the other people out there who are protecting our country and who are away from home on the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. So God bless the troops and God bless my family."