Endeavour en route to space station docking today
Updated: November 25, 2002

The Endeavour astronauts were awakened at 8:29 a.m. to kick off a busy day of work to rendezvous and dock with the international space station. The crew was awakened by a recording of Sting's "I Need You Like a Hole In My Head," beamed up from mission control in Houston.

Endeavour's launching Saturday night was timed to set up a docking with the international space station today at 4:26 p.m. as the two spacecraft sail 250 miles above eastern Asia. Commander James Wetherbee, pilot Paul Lockhart and their crewmates will begin working from the rendezvous timeline checklist starting around 11:35 a.m.

"I've dreamed about flying up next to a space station, and so the rendezvous portion of the mission is very exciting to us," Wetherbee said in a pre-launch NASA interview.

After a series of rocket firings to fine-tune the shuttle's approach, Wetherbee will begin the terminal phase of the rendezvous with Endeavour trailing the station by about 9.2 statute miles. The "TI" burn is targeted for 2:06 p.m. From there, Wetherbee and pilot Paul Lockhart will oversee a series of computer-controlled rocket firings designed to place the shuttle at a point 600 feet or so directly below the space station.

At about that point, Wetherbee will take over manual control and pilot Endeavour in a slow loop up to a point 310 feet directly in front of the lab complex as both spacecraft race through space at five miles per second.

The international space station currently consists of four large pressurized modules - the U.S. Destiny laboratory, the multi-hatch Unity node, the NASA-financed Russian-built Zarya module and the Russian command module, Destiny. These modules form the central core of the station and they fly through space like coupled train cars, with Destiny leading the way.

Attached to right, or starboard, side of the Unity node is the Quest airlock module. Another pressurized module, a Russian airlock/Soyuz docking compartment called Pirs, is attached to a downward-facing port on the Zvezda module.

A fresh Soyuz lifeboat, delivered by a so-called "taxi" crew Nov. 1, is currently docked to Pirs while an unmanned Progress supply ship is docked to Zvezda's aft port.

Extending straight up from Unity like the mast of a ship, is a U.S. truss segment known as Z1 that houses the station's stabilizing gyroscopes and serves as a temporary mounting point for the P6 solar array truss. At the top of the P6 truss, two huge solar array panels extend to either side like great wings.

Astronauts currently are building the station's main solar array truss, a beam anchored to the top of the Destiny module that eventually will extend some 180 feet to either side.

Positioned directly in front of the station's long axis, Wetherbee will manually guide Endeavour in so the docking system in the shuttle's cargo bay can mate with its counterpart on a pressurized mating adapter attached to the Destiny lab module's forward hatch. After hooks and latches engage, the two spacecraft will be locked together.

"You can think of it as, as we do it in thirds," Wetherbee said of the terminal rendezvous sequence. "The first third is controlled by the ground and automatically done by burns onboard the vehicle, all computer-controlled.

"The middle third is still computer-controlled, but we have onboard targeting and we start to complete the burns manually with computer steering. And then, the final third is done almost completely manually, where you're looking out the window at a camera and you have a visual of the target on the space station.

"And so the way we've evolved in our space program, we fly the final portion manually, actually controlling the vehicle which weighs, of course, about 100 tons. And we have about plus or minus three inches when we finally connect, and the vehicle's about 100 feet long and it's very slow, the closing rates.

"Of course you're traveling five miles a second, or 17,500 miles an hour, around the Earth," Wetherbee said. "But the relative difference is about one-tenth of a foot per second. And so it's pretty exciting for us to dock."

Hatch opening is targeted for around 5:45 p.m. After a brief welcome aboard ceremony, Expedition 5 commander Valery Korzun will give the Endeavour astronauts a safety briefing before the two crews turn their attention to moving the new station crew's equipment from the shuttle to the station.

Expedition 6 commander Kenneth Bowersox, flight engineer Nikolai Budarin and science officer Donald Pettit will officially replace Korzun, ISS-5 flight engineer Sergei Treschev and science officer Peggy Whitson as soon as the new crew's Soyuz seat liners and Sokol pressure suits are in place on the station. A new crew is not officially in residence until the equipment is on board for an emergency departure aboard the Soyuz lifeboat.

While an official change-of-command ceremony will not be held until Friday, the transfer of seat liners and Sokol suits marks the point at which Bowersox and company actually replace Korzun and his crewmates aboard the outpost.

"To be successful we have to come back as a crew that was able to support each other, able to forgive each other when we made mistakes or when we accidentally offended someone, when we didn't mean to, that we were able to get past all those, human frailties, and stay united as a supportive crew," Bowersox said in a NASA interview.

"And that's not just the three of us on board but also with our team on the ground, because there will be tons of frustrations that will come down upon us as we're going through our mission. We'll be in a high-stress environment, and typically when people are stressed and they have more stress being dumped on them, their teams can break down.

"And what we want to do instead is to support each other so that we become stronger with that stress. And if we can do that, we'll be successful; everything else will work out and take care of itself."

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