With the International Space Station 300 miles ahead, the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery awoke this afternoon to begin a third day in space, a day that will bring a new crew to the growing International Space Station.
The shuttle crew was awakened with the Russian song “Vashe Blagorodiye,” a song from a movie entitled “White Sun of the Desert” that is traditionally watched by cosmonauts the night before a launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The song was played for Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev, who is spending his last day aboard Discovery before beginning a handover of station command with Expedition One crewmember Yuri Gidzenko.
All activities are on track for a docking of Discovery to the station at 11:34 p.m. The final phase of Discovery’s rendezvous with the station was to begin with a Terminal Initiation (TI) engine firing by the shuttle at 9:13 p.m. with Discovery about 50,000 feet behind the station. The TI burn puts the shuttle on course to intercept the station during the next orbit of Earth. At about 10:30 p.m., as Discovery reaches a point about a half-mile below the complex, Commander Jim Wetherbee will take over manual control of the approach. Wetherbee will fly Discovery to a position about 300 feet in front of the station, then move in toward a docking port attached to the end of the station’s Destiny Laboratory.
During the docking, Pilot Jim Kelly will help control Discovery's approach as astronauts Andy Thomas and Paul Richards manage the shuttle's docking mechanism and rendezvous tools. Using a view from a camera mounted in the center of Discovery's docking mechanism, Wetherbee will center the docking ports of the two spacecraft precisely, double-checking the alignment 30 feet out. The final approach will be at a relative velocity of one-tenth of a foot per second.
When Discovery makes contact with the station’s docking port on Destiny, latches will automatically connect the two spacecraft as they fly high off the east coast of Brazil. Once relative motion between the spacecraft stops, Thomas will retract the docking ring on Discovery's mechanism, closing latches to firmly secure the shuttle to the station. The hatches between the shuttle and station are to be opened about two hours later at 1:42 a.m. Saturday.
The crew will begin transferring crews, equipment and supplies immediately. The first crew exchange is planned to allow Usachev to be aboard the station jointly with Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd for as long as possible to facilitate the change of leadership. The hatches will be closed again at 4:37 a.m. Saturday so the shuttle crew can prepare for the first of two planned spacewalks, a sojourn by astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms set to begin Saturday evening.
The stage is set for the eighth shuttle docking to the ISS with both spacecraft in good shape. The next status report will be issued Saturday morning.
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