February 19, 2008
The Way Home
The shuttle Atlantis is coming home, hopefully to Kennedy Space Center Wednesday morning (opportunities at 9:07 and 10:42 a.m. EST), but if not, then to Edwards AFB (two opportunities) in California. One way or another, they have to get down Wednesday to avoid the temporary debris cloud that will be created when the US military blows up their malfunctioning spy satellite.
The shuttle mission was an outstanding success. They delivered the European Columbus module and performed three spacewalks to get it attached and connected. The shiny new module adds about 1,000 cubic feet of pressurized volume (about the size of small bedroom) to the space station with ten scientific racks to support experiments. They also supplied 1400 pounds of water and 95 pounds of oxygen and boosted the station's orbit 1.4 miles using the shuttle's vernier jets.
The shuttle is also providing a gentle ride home for astronaut Dan Tani, whose tour of duty on the station was extended two months because of launch delays--and who suffered the loss of his mother just before Christmas. His commander, Peggy Whitson, will have to wait until the next shuttle for her ride home. That flight is currently scheduled for March 11, but may be delayed because of this flight's extension (it was originally supposed to land on Monday). The April 24 flight may also be impacted, especially if Atlantis ends up landing at Edwards instead of KSC.
It is not clear whether or not the shooting down of the military satellite will have any impact (sorry for the pun!) on the next shuttle launch. The military predicts that most of the debris created will burn up in the atmosphere within a few weeks--but March 11 is within that timeframe. (The debris should not impact the station because the station is in a higher orbit than the satellite.)
So let's all hope for clear weather in Florida Wednesday and that the military has a nice clean "shot" at their satellite.
To the stars!
Assignments Editor, Ad Astra magazine
Posted by m_dyson at February 19, 2008 12:22 PM