Discovery Heads for International Space Station
On its final mission, the space shuttle Discovery will spend two days heading toward its rendezvous with the International Space Station. The crew is scheduled to perform a standard scan of the shuttle's thermal-protection system using the orbiter boom sensor system attached to the end of Discovery's robotic arm. While the inspection is under way, the crew will work on preparing the spacesuits onboard the shuttle that will be transferred to the station after docking and will be used during the mission's two spacewalks, NASA reported.
Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott are scheduled to rendezvous and dock with the station on Saturday. During Discovery's seven days at the station, Bowen and Drew will do two spacewalks to do maintenance work and install new components.
The reinforced and rewired Multipurpose Logistics Module Leonardo will provide 2,472 cubic feet of additional pressurized space for the station. It is scheduled to be unberthed from Discovery and connected to the station's Unity node on March 2. Among its contents is Robonaut 2, a robot much like a human upper torso. During space shuttle Discovery's final spaceflight, the STS-133 crewmembers will take important spare parts to the ISS along with the Express Logistics Carrier-4.
For the first six-and-a-half hour spacewalk on March 1, Bowen and Drew will stow a failed pump module, install an extension cable and perform other tasks. On the second spacewalk, another scheduled outing on March 3, they will vent ammonia from the failed pump; install a camera on Dextre, the Canadian robotic device more formally known as the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, and remove insulation from it; install Crew Equipment Translation Aid lights, and troubleshoot a radiator stowage beam bracket.
Later this weekend, Barratt, Bowen and Stott will work with Drew to unpack and prepare the spacesuits that Drew and Bowen will use for the mission's two spacewalks. The four mission specialists will also get ready for Saturday's docking with the ISS, checking out the tools that will be used for the rendezvous and setting up a camera that Lindsey and Boe will use to guide the shuttle in.
Meanwhile, aboard the station, the thrusters of the newly arrived Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle were tested overnight. The European cargo vehicle was used to boost the station's altitude by about a mile less than 24 hours after it docked to the Zvezda service module on Feb. 24. The 3-minute, 18-second thruster firing provided proof that the vehicle could perform reboost as expected and positioned the station for the next round of Russian Soyuz vehicle operations.
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.