- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2006

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — It was moving day yesterday for the crew of Discovery, which transferred thousands of pounds of supplies and cargo from the space shuttle to the International Space Station.

And there was good news: The astronauts earned an extra day in space.

The astronauts also fired up their inspection boom to survey six questionable areas on the shuttle’s thermal skin. Flight director Tony Ceccacci said engineers want extra views of these areas to determine whether there is any serious damage and any need for repairs.

At a press conference, Mr. Ceccacci noted that Discovery has enough fuel to stay up an additional day in order to squeeze in an extra spacewalk for practicing thermal repairs. That stretches the flight to 13 days.

The astronauts moved a huge cargo container, nicknamed Leonardo, onto the space station by robotic arm. Among the amenities awaiting the space station crew were a new stationary bicycle for exercise, an oxygen generator that will eventually allow the space station to support six inhabitants, a machine that cools the station’s cabin air and a lab freezer for scientific samples.

“Have fun putting a new room on the station today — the float-in closet, every home needs one,” flight controllers in Houston wrote the shuttle crew in a daily electronic message.

Unloading items 220 miles above Earth was more difficult than moving into a house because at least there’s gravity on the ground, according to Air Force Col. Steve Lindsey, Discovery’s commander.

“It’s really kind of a challenge because you’re in [zero gravity] … you’ve got to go very, very slow because if you go fast, you kind of run into things and bump into other equipment,” Col. Lindsey said in interviews with reporters on the ground. “It’s kind of an interesting choreography we have to go through.”

For the first time in three years, the International Space Station has three crew members — European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter on Thursday joined Pavel Vinogradov and Jeff Williams, who marked their 100th day at the space station yesterday.

Discovery’s six remaining shuttle crew members awoke yesterday to a recording of the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine,” a choice of astronaut Lisa M. Nowak’s family.

In the afternoon, Navy Cmdr. Nowak and astronaut Stephanie Wilson used the shuttle’s robotic arm and an extended boom to take close-up pictures of areas on the orbiter’s underside that engineers need more information about to reassure themselves that there’s no damage like the kind that doomed Columbia’s flight in 2003.

“We’ve got a couple of really minor problems,” pilot Mark Kelly told reporters earlier in the day. “You know, they’re not significant enough to be called nuisances.”

The boom will look at the shuttle’s nose cap area, which eluded earlier photography and may have some bird droppings on it, and three places where gap filler is sticking out, including one protrusion as long as an inch. Gap filler is material fitted between thermal tiles to prevent them from rubbing against each other.

Columbia’s seven astronauts were killed during re-entry when fiery gases entered a breach in the shuttle’s wing. The breach was caused by insulating foam hitting its external tank.


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