Imagery experts declared the shuttle’s heat shield healthy and safe for entry and landing during Friday’s Mission Management Team meeting. The report followed extensive review of imagery obtained by using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System Wednesday after Discovery undocked from the International Space Station.
The team also reviewed new imagery provided by Discovery’s crew of an object that was seen floating away from the vehicle Friday morning during the routine day-before-landing systems checkout to verify entry and landing system health.
Engineers concluded the object was a heat shield clip from the rudder/speed brake on the orbiter’s tail used as a heat barrier during launch only and not a concern for entry.
The crew also sent photographs of a perceived protrusion on the rudder/speed brake, but engineers quickly determined it is a normal feature of the tail’s heat shield and also not a concern for entry.
To prepare for landing, Discovery’s crew members spent a large part of the day stowing items in the crew cabin as the tests of Discovery's flight control surfaces and reaction control system thrusters was ongoing. Both systems functioned well and are ready to support entry activities.
With a large high pressure system in place off the North Carolina coast, forecasters are calling for only scattered clouds and light winds in Florida for landing attempts Saturday and, if needed, Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center.
The crew is scheduled to go to sleep about 5:30 p.m. and awaken at 1:32 a.m. Saturday to begin landing day preparations.