Having completed the first space shuttle docking with the International Space Station late last night, Discovery's astronauts will go to sleep at 8:50 a.m. Central time to rest up for a space walk late tonight to install a pair of cranes and other gear to the exterior of the orbital complex.
Commander Kent Rominger completed a textbook rendezvous and docking with the station that Mission Control said would set the standard for future ISS assembly flights. Contact between Discovery and the station occurred right on time at 11:24 p.m. Central time Friday.
Once the two spacecraft were solidly mated together at 11:39 p.m., the astronauts performed leak and pressurization checks, then opened the hatch to Pressurized Mating Adapter 2, attached to the Unity module. Mission Specialists Ellen Ochoa and Valery Tokarev temporarily stowed docking targets and lights and checked hatch seals in the narrow passageway.
Rominger and Pilot Rick Husband removed and stowed four electronics boxes used to supply power to the docking ports around the Unity module, clearing the sides of the passageway into Unity for easy transfer of some 3,600 pounds of equipment and supplies. The briefcase-sized boxes will be kept in storage until the end of the next station assembly flight on STS-101 in December, when they will be reinstalled to prepare for the arrival of the U.S. Laboratory module, Destiny, next spring.
Mission Specialists Tammy Jernigan and Dan Barry spent the rest of the morning checking the tools they will use on their space walk, which is scheduled to begin shortly after 10 p.m. Central time. They also checked out their emergency rescue backpacks and reviewed their space walk procedures one last time.
The astronauts will be awakened at 4:50 p.m. today to begin final preparations for the 6 ½ hour excursion into Discovery's cargo bay. With Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa operating the shuttle's robot arm to maneuver Jernigan up toward the space station modules, and Julie Payette acting as the spacewalk choreographer from Discovery's aft flight deck, Barry and Jernigan will move the two cranes from a payload bay cargo support structure to locations on the outside of the station. One crane is U.S.-built and the other is Russian-built to help move large modular components from one module to another during ISS assembly. Next, they will move two portable foot restraints from the cargo carrier to the mating adapter to which the Zarya and Unity modules are attached. Then, they'll move three bags containing handrails and tools for future space walkers to the outside of Unity. If time permits, the space walkers also will install a thermal cover on a Unity trunnion pin, inspect some peeling paint on Zarya, and survey one of two Early Communications System antennas on the starboard side of Unity.
The space walkers are scheduled to reenter the hatch about 4 a.m. Central time Sunday.
Meanwhile, all systems aboard the Discovery / ISS space complex continue to work well as the two craft orbit 240 statute miles above the Earth's surface.
The next STS-96 mission status report will be issued at approximately 6 p.m. Central time or as events warrant.