That 6:18 a.m. CST call began a day that the crew and their support teams on the ground hope will see Discovery return to Earth after a successful flight to the International Space Station. After eight docked days and four spacewalks, the shuttle left the station with a new truss segment, a new crew member and a reconfigured power system.
All three U.S. landing sites will be activated today. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the preferred shuttle landing site, will be the first opportunity, which would see a landing at 2:56 p.m. On the subsequent orbit the focus will be on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and KSC. On the orbit after that Edwards and White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico would be the centers of attention.
Weather at Kennedy and Edwards is questionable. If the crew does not don its entry suits for the first Kennedy opportunity, a final landing chance of the day at Edwards is available to Discovery. Here are predicted CST times for the deorbit burn and landing times for each opportunity by orbit number and landing site:.
Orbit 202: Kennedy 1:49 p.m. 2:56 p.m.
Orbit 203: Edwards 3:19 p.m. 4:27 p.m.
Orbit 203: White Sands 3:20 p.m. 4:27 p.m.
Orbit 203: Kennedy 3:26 p.m. 4:32 p.m.
Orbit 204: Edwards 4:54 p.m. 6 p.m.
Orbit 204: White Sands 4:57 p.m. 6:02 p.m.
Orbit 205: Edwards 6:32 p.m. 7:36 p.m.
A total of seven landing opportunities scattered among the three sites are available Saturday if the shuttle is not able to land today.
For today’s opportunities, Discovery crew members, Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and mission specialists Bob Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Christer Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Thomas Reiter, who is returning home after about six months on the station, will begin deorbit preparations at 9:52 a.m. Payload bay door closing would be at 11:13 a.m. for the first landing opportunity.
Aboard the station, Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Sunita Williams, the new crew member who came up on Discovery, are back to their regular schedule. They got their wakeup tone today at midnight CST (6 a.m. in the GMT kept aboard the orbiting laboratory) and will begin a sleep period at 3:30 p.m.