Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson warmly welcomed the Space Shuttle Discovery crew at 9:39 a.m. CDT when STS-120 Commander Pam Melroy and her construction crew floated into the station, joining forces for a mission that is setting the stage for rapid-fire expansion of the international outpost.
The shuttle and space station docked at 7:40 a.m. over the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of North Carolina. Prior to docking, Melroy flew Discovery through an orbital back flip while about 600 feet below the space station, allowing Expedition 16 Flight Engineers Clay Anderson and Yuri Malenchenko to take a series of high-resolution photographs of the orbiterís heat shield.
Just before bedtime, the combined crew was informed that based on early analysis, mission managers are anticipating no need for a focused inspection of Discoveryís heat shield while it is docked to the station. A final decision is expected to be made tomorrow after the images from the rendezvous pitch maneuver are considered.
On board the station, the official exchange of Anderson for his replacement on Expedition 16 took place at 11:12 a.m. with the installation of Dan Taniís customized seat liner in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that would return him to Earth in an emergency. Anderson will return home with the STS-120 crew.
Mission Specialists Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock will spend tonight "camped out" inside the Quest airlock with air pressure lowered to help purge nitrogen from their bodies in preparation tomorrowís spacewalk, the first of five planned for this mission. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 5:28 a.m. CDT Friday.
During the spacewalk, Parazynski and Wheelock will go outside to assist with the installation of the Harmony module. The Italian-built hub will be grappled by the stationís robotic arm, lifted from Discoveryís payload bay, and installed in a temporary location on port side of Unity. The spacewalkers also will retrieve a broken S-band antenna for return to Earth and disconnect the utility connections between the stationís first solar array and the stationís truss. The Port 6 solar array section will be moved to its final assembly location on a spacewalk later in the mission.
Parazynski, a veteran of four spaceflights, will serve as the lead on four of the five spacewalks. Wheelock is making his first spacewalk tomorrow. Inside the space station, Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson, Tani and Anderson will operate the stationís robotic arm for unberthing and installation of Harmony and antenna retrieval during the spacewalk.
The Expedition 16 crew will use Canadarm2 to move and install Harmony to its permanent location on the front of the Destiny laboratory after the shuttle departs. The new addition will increase the living and working space inside the station by more than 2,600 cubic feet and provide docking ports for laboratory modules from the European and Japanese space agencies. Those components are due on orbit late this year and early next year.