Discovery's seven astronauts have successfully transferred almost two tons of material and equipment to the International Space Station to be used by the first residents of the outpost when they arrive next year.
Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa, who has been coordinating the transfer activities, reported early this morning that the transfer of clothing, water, sleeping bags, spare parts, medical equipment, supplies and hardware for the so-called Expedition One crew is essentially complete. Mission Specialist Julie Payette coordinated stowage of the items in the Unity and Zarya modules. Earlier in the flight, space walkers Dan Barry and Tammy Jernigan installed another 700 pounds of equipment on the exterior of the station to be used during future assembly missions. A handful of items will be carried from Discovery to the station late tonight to wrap up the primary objective of the flight.
One of the few items still to be transferred is a seventh bag of water. A total of almost 75 gallons of water will be left aboard the station for the first resident crew, which is comprised of Expedition Commander Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Kirkalev.
With the transfer work all but complete, the astronauts conducted some additional work, installing parts of a wireless strain gauge system that will help engineers track the effects of adding modules to the station throughout its assembly, cleaning filters and checking smoke detectors.
The crew took time from their activities overnight to conduct a variety of news conferences with media representatives, and Payette accepted a congratulatory call from Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and schoolchildren in Ottawa.
The astronauts began an eight-hour sleep period at 7:50 a.m. Central time and will be awakened at 3:50 p.m. to begin their final day of work aboard the international station.
The primary activity for the astronauts will be to move the few remaining items from Discovery to the ISS, then close a series of hatches within the station's modules leading back to the shuttle. Shortly after 4:30 a.m. Thursday, Discovery's thrusters will be commanded to fire in a series of 17 bursts to raise the Space Station's altitude by about five to six miles. That reboost maneuver will enable the station to be in the correct altitude for the arrival of the Russian Zvezda service module late this year. It will be the next component to be linked to the growing station complex and the first living quarters for the first permanent occupants of the orbital facility.
Discovery and the International Space Station are in excellent health orbiting 240 miles above the Earth.
The next STS-96 mission status report will be issued at about 7 p.m. Wednesday or as developments warrant.