Visitors on a Space Shuttle will arrive at the International Space Station for the first time in over two years today. The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to catch up and dock to the Station at 6:18 a.m. CDT Thursday.
During Discovery's approach to the Station, Commander Eileen Collins will pause with the orbiter 600 feet below the Station and perform the first Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver. The motion will flip the Shuttle end over end at three quarters of a degree per second as the Station residents look on with digital cameras at the ready. The flip will provide Expedition 11 crewmembers, Sergei Krikalev and John Phillips, about 93 seconds to photograph the underside of Discovery and its heat-resistant tiles in detail.
The images from Station will be downlinked and added to the host of imagery and data obtained during Discovery's launch and Wednesday's robotic surveys that engineers are analyzing. Imagery released Wednesday showed a piece of foam being shed from the external tank during Discovery's ascent. Other photos showed a variety of smaller tile and foam dings that will be reviewed over the next several days. The crew will also downlink the video taken of the External Tank as it fell away from Discovery on Tuesday and video of the clearance between the Orbiter Boom Sensor System and the Ku-band antenna for review.
Once Discovery's crew has had a safety briefing from the Space Station crew, both crews get to work with more robotic operations to prepare for additional surveys. Discovery Pilot Jim Kelly, Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence, with assistance from Phillips, will operate the Space Station robotic arm, Canadarm2, from inside the Destiny Lab. They will use the arm to lift the Orbiter Boom Sensor System from the payload bay sill and hand it over to the Shuttle arm. Mission Specialists Charlie Camarda and Andy Thomas will operate the Shuttle arm. Clearance restraints around the Shuttle's docking mechanism do not allow the Shuttle arm to grapple the boom on its own.
Spacewalkers Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi have two hours to prepare their tools and equipment for their three spacewalks. Among other things, the first spacewalk Saturday will test thermal protection system repair techniques. Two other spacewalks will repair and install critical hardware outside the Station.
Discovery's crew was awakened at 10:39 p.m. CDT by "It's a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong for Camarda. The Station crew was awakened at the same time by a tone onboard.
The next STS-114 mission status report will be issued Thursday afternoon, or earlier, if events warrant.