SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468
*Crew Checks Out Heat Shield, Readies for Landing*
S116-E-06151 : Astronaut Joan Higginbotham( Image above: STS-116 Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham retrieves items from a drawer on the middeck of the Space Shuttle Discovery during flight day six activities. Image Credit: NASA TV - GO TO: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html )
On Wednesday, the STS-116 astronauts conducted a final inspection of Space Shuttle Discovery’s heat shield and began preparations for their return to Earth.
STS-116 Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein and Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick used the shuttle’s robotic arm and boom extension sensor system to check the heat shield for any micrometeoroid hits that may have occurred while the orbiter was docked to the International Space Station.
Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Christer Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Thomas Reiter stowed items in preparation for the return to Earth. Discovery is slated to touch down at 3:56 p.m. EST Friday.
Small scientific satellites were deployed from the payload bay Wednesday night. The Microelectromechanical System-Based PICOSAT Inspector (MEPSI) will demonstrate the use of tiny, low-power satellites to observe larger spacecraft by testing the function of small camera systems and gyroscopes.
The Radar Fence Transponder (RAFT) satellite is a student experiment from the United States Naval Academy that uses picosatellites to test the Space Surveillance Radar Fence.
Discovery undocked from the station Tuesday, ending an eight-day stay at the orbital outpost. While there, the crew continued the on-orbit construction of the station with the addition of the P5 spacer truss segment during the first of four spacewalks. The next two spacewalks were devoted to the rewiring of the station’s power system, leaving it in a permanent setup. A fourth spacewalk was added to allow the crew to retract solar arrays that had folded improperly.
Discovery also delivered a new crew member and more than two tons of equipment and supplies to the station. Almost two tons of items no longer needed on the station will return to Earth with STS-116.
For the latest news and information on the International Space Station and the Expedition 14 crew, please visit the main station page. + Read more http://www.nasa.gov/station