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February 10, 2008

The Extra Day

Although timeline planning for a shuttle mission is exacting, NASA always makes provision for an extra day or two on orbit, should a contingency arise during the mission that requires a change of plans. Usually that extra day is tacked onto the end of the mission, to handle any unfinished business. For STS-122, the extra day is squeezed in toward the beginning. Hans Schlegel, the ESA astronaut who was scheduled to be one of two crewmembers to perform the first spacewalk of the mission, fell ill. He has been replaced by his backup, American Stanley Love. The change necessitated a delay of a day, to prepare Love's spacesuit for the mission, and to review what needed to be done with the new crew assignments.

Because the spacewalk was put off for a day, this enabled the critical inspection of the Shuttle Atlantis' thermal protection system (TPS) to be conducted earlier than planned. A torn seam on the protective blanket covering the starboard OMS pod received a detailed inspection. The analysis of that inspection will determine whether there is a need to do anything about the tear or to leave it as is for reentry.

In addition to the blanket tear, a couple of tile chips near the orbiter windows were also discovered. The management team believes that analysis of the data on these will probably show that no action will be required. At present, the prognosis is that all mission objectives will be met, and perhaps even some get-ahead tasks will be accomplished as well.

Allen Taylor
NSS Member
President, Oregon L5 Society, A chapter of the NSS

Posted by allen.taylor at February 10, 2008 05:14 PM



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