The crew members of the space shuttle Discovery received another special wake-up call Tuesday, as they began what is scheduled to be Discovery's last full day in space on its last mission into the heavens. The wakeup call was a live performance of the song "Blue Sky" by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The song received the most votes in NASA's Top 40 song contest receiving 722,662 votes (29 percent of the 2,463,774 total). It was originally written as a tribute to the space program and workforce. The space agency noted the performance was the first time a shuttle crew has been awakened "live" from Mission Control, Houston.
NASA reported the rest of the crew's day would be spent primarily on preparations for Wednesday's landing, which is scheduled for 10:57 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialist Nicole Stott will be performing a checkout of Discovery's flight-control systems and firing its reaction-control system jets, and all members of the crew will work together to stow hardware and equipment.
On Monday, Discovery undocked from the International Space Station for the last time. As the shuttle moved away, Station Commander Scott Kelly praised the cooperation among crewmembers of both spacecraft. Lindsey said the team effort had allowed them "to accomplish well over 100 percent of our objectives."
Boe flew the orbiter in a vertical circle around the station while crewmembers took pictures of the station to document its condition. The space agency said one big change from the previous fly-around by Atlantis during STS-132 last May was the addition of the Permanent Multipurpose Module brought up by Discovery. After completing the circle, Discovery did two separation burns to take it away from the station.
Lindsey later had words for Bryan Lunney, the lead STS-133 shuttle flight director working his last shift before leaving NASA. "Bryan has been a great friend, a terrific flight director and a leader. We're going to really miss him," the Discovery commander radioed down during a farewell gathering in Mission Control.
Lindsey, Boe and Mission Specialist Alvin Drew devoted much of their day to the standard late inspection of the heat-resistant reinforced carbon-carbon surfaces. Using the robotic arm and its 50-foot orbiter boom sensor system extension, they began the inspection early Monday morning with a look at the right wing. The subsequent nose cap inspection was followed by a look at the left wing. Images and data from the survey are sent to the ground for evaluation by experts, NASA reported, and they will make sure no damage to the thermal-protection system occurred during its stay in orbit.
Discovery was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ulysses probe designed to study the Sun. The shuttle also carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 in October 1998, making him the oldest person to venture into space. Discovery has flown 38 flights, completed 5,247 orbits and spent 322 days in orbit. The shuttle is the orbiter fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet, including four in 1985 alone.