Thursday, December 21, 2006
The space shuttle Discovery is on track for a landing Friday afternoon, though weather has created some doubt about which landing site will be used. The vehicle carries two tons of surplus equipment and gear being returned from the International Space Station (ISS), along with one astronaut who was swapped out from the ISS crew. Astronauts on the Shuttle delivered and emplaced a new ISS structural element, the P5 truss, stowed a no-longer-needed solar array, and rewired the entire ISS electrical system to a more capable, permanent configuration. The ISS support mission required an eight-day stay at the orbital outpost and four EVAs. The Shuttle has deployed two of its three microsatellite payloads (see earlier post) and will deploy the last one today. That one is the Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE), a Naval Research Laboratory experiment using two spherical microsats to measure the density and composition of the residual atmosphere found at orbital altitudes.