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Discovery dodges space junk

Space station crew change complete

The Leonardo cargo module is docked on the Alpha space station
The Leonardo cargo module is docked on the Alpha space station  

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Crew rotation completed

Unpacking work continues


JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- Even in the vast reaches of space, littering is a bad idea.

Discovery commander James Wetherbee had to fire the space shuttle's steering rockets a little earlier than planned Wednesday to boost the shuttle and the attached international space station out of the way of some space junk.


The 'junk' was a portable foot restraint, a viselike device that allows astronauts to clamp onto the shuttle's robot arm during spacewalks. It was dropped by astronaut James Voss during a spacewalk early Sunday.

"It got away from us on the first spacewalk," said NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley.

But the 10-and-a-half pound device didn't get far enough away. Without the orbital boost, it would have passed within 200 feet of the space station -- too close for comfort.

Hawley said the shuttle already had three orbital boosts on the agenda. They help keep the space station Alpha in its proper orbit.

Crew rotation completed

Earlier Wednesday, astronaut Susan Helms officially moved into Alpha, dragging her custom-made Soyuz seat liner into the Russian return vehicle about 1 a.m. EST Wednesday.

The Soyuz spacecraft would be used to evacuate Alpha if there were an emergency on the space station.

Space station Alpha with the Leonardo module docked on the side
Space station Alpha with the Leonardo module docked on the side  

The shuttle crew awakened to Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's "Free Fallin'." The song was dedicated to Helms, a tradition carried over from her previous flights.

"It seemed only fitting that it be played for you today as you prepare to move into your new home," said astronaut Cady Coleman at Mission Control.

"Thanks Cady -- that was a wonderful way to wake up," responded Helms.

Helms will spend about four months on Alpha with Voss and Russian cosmonaut Yury Usachev, the new commander of the space station.

They are relieving U.S. commander Bill Shepherd and Russians Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev. The three are now members of the Discovery crew and will return to Earth when the shuttle lands March 20 at Kennedy Space Center.

Though the crew transfer is complete, Shepherd won't officially hand over command of Alpha until Saturday night when Discovery undocks from the space station.

Unpacking work continues

Astronaut Susan Helms moves into space station Alpha
Astronaut Susan Helms moves into space station Alpha  

In addition to delivering the new Alpha crew, Discovery brought up an Italian-made module named Leonardo, a $150 million reusable container filled with 5 tons of equipment and supplies.

Leonardo was lifted from Discovery's cargo bay early Monday and attached to the space station. Both crews have been working to unload it -- removing electronics, communications gear and racks of equipment.

Included among those racks -- the Human Research Facility, the first major piece of equipment for the space station's new Destiny science laboratory. The facility will be used to study the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Leonardo will be filled with trash from Alpha, packed back into the shuttle's cargo bay and returned to Earth to be used again.

Second spacewalk done
March 13, 2001
Discovery delivers Leonardo
March 12, 2001

International space station

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