Tuesday the shuttle crew will spend its last full day on orbit testing Discovery’s flight control systems and maneuvering thrusters while final packing winds up a memorable assembly flight to the station.
With all systems checked out, the STS-120 crew will bring Clay Anderson home after 152 days in space on Wednesday to one of two landing opportunities available at the Kennedy Space Center at 12:02 p.m. and 1:36 p.m. CST. Weather forecasters predict favorable landing conditions once a cold front passes through late Tuesday night. The backup landing sites at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and White Sands Space Harbor, N.M., will not be considered Wednesday.
Under the control of Pilot George Zamka, Discovery backed away from the station at 4:32 a.m., completing 10 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes of docked operations. The historic flight saw Discovery’s crew deliver the Harmony Node and relocate a solar array to increase power generation. Unforeseen damage to the array was repaired during a dramatic spacewalk following three days of engineering analysis, testing and plan preparation on the ground.
The mission sets the stage for the next component of the station to be delivered. Space shuttle Atlantis is prepared to roll to the launch pad this weekend for final processing toward launch of the European Space Agency science laboratory “Columbus.” The STS-122 launch remains targeted for early December.