Friday's Schedule Full Of Checks, Heat Shield Inspection
The seven-member crew
of the space shuttle Atlantis spent their first full day in space
Friday, by readying the orbiter for Saturday's scheduled arrival at
the International Space Station, and inspecting Atlantis' ceramic
tile heat shield.
NASA tells ANN crewmembers started the heat shield inspections
about 0940 EST. They used Atlantis’ robotic arm to check the
spacecraft’s underside, nose cap and the leading edges of its
wings. The crew is using a 50-foot long boom extension on the end
of the arm to inspect some of the hard to reach shuttle surfaces.
The inspections were slated to wrap up about 1505 EST.
The inspections are being conducted to see if any damage
occurred to the heat shield during the climb to orbit Thursday.
Over the next few days, engineers and flight controllers will
analyze the data collected by the STS-122 crew.
The preparations for Saturday’s activities included the
extension of the shuttle’s docking ring, and the check out of
tools they will use to rendezvous and link up with the station.
Docking is set for 1225 EST Saturday.
NASA stated a check out of spacesuits was also on Friday's
schedule. The STS-122 crew will use the spacesuits during the
mission’s three scheduled spacewalks at the space station,
installing the European Space Agency’s Columbus module and
preparing the research laboratory for use.
The Columbus lab is filled with racks for experiments and
research equipment, and has fixtures on its exterior to also host
research exposed to the vacuum of space. It represents the latest
international addition to a facility already made of structures
from the United States, Russia and Canada.
"It shows that there is a real partnership between communities,"
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said.
The launch was crucial for the European Space Agency because the
Columbus lab (shown below, during assembly) represents a
cutting edge research facility for Europe and the continent’s
first manned spacecraft.
"Today we are opening a new chapter for ESA," said Jean-Jacques
Dordain, the European Space Agency director general. "Just as
Columbus discovered the New World, with Columbus, we are
discovering a whole new world."
In an unusual bit of low-Earth orbit serendipity, Thursday's
launch came seven years to the day after Atlantis carried
NASA’s science laboratory named Destiny to the space