Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault, and Mission Specialist and Flight Engineer Steven Swanson checked out Atlantis’ hydraulic systems and flight control surfaces beginning at 8:58 a.m. today. That was followed closely by the steering jet tests at 10:08 a.m.
All seven astronauts spent the day stowing equipment for the landing, and then came together just after 2 p.m. to discuss their mission with NBC, ABC and CNN. The crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 8:38 p.m. and wake up at 4:38 a.m. Thursday.
The Mission Management Team worked into the early evening to ensure the shuttle is safe for landing. Some fuzz from a gap filler poking out on the outer edge of the left wing was noticed during Tuesday’s late inspection and deemed safe for reentry based on its location and measured protrusion of about 4/10 of an inch. Also, the MMT reviewed additional data presented on the thermal blanket damaged during launch on June 8. The blanket was repaired during the third spacewalk of the mission and cleared for reentry.
Discussions centered around thermal models developed by engineers to assess whether any damage may have occurred to underlying structure, but photographs taken by Danny Olivas – who affected the repair – clearly showed no heat effects.
Entry Flight Director Norm Knight indicated that the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, would be the only landing site considered Thursday, based on consumables that provide flexibility to land as far out as Sunday. The weather forecast shows a chance of rain showers within 30 miles of the runway at landing time with a cloud deck at 5,000 feet – both are landing violations. The plan calls for a deorbit engine firing at 11:50 a.m. for the 12:55 p.m. landing and a 1:25 p.m. deorbit burn for the 2:30 p.m. landing opportunity.
If landing is moved to Friday, two landing opportunities would be available in Florida and two in California at the Edwards Air Force Base. Three sites would be available Saturday in order of preference – Florida, California or at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.