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Shuttle mission extended

Discovery and Alpha to stay docked an extra day

The crews of Discovery and Alpha at a news conference on Friday  

March 16, 2001
Web posted at: 3:41 p.m. EST (2041 GMT)


In this story:

Packing up is hard to do

Relief team goes to work

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas -- The space shuttle Discovery will stay in orbit an extra day to give the 10 astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the shuttle and international space station Alpha time to finish packing an Italian-built cargo module for its return to Earth.

Landing now is scheduled for 12:55 a.m. EST Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center.

"We've got every confidence that you could get the stowage done, but we've actually got quite a lot of analysis to do down here on the ground," said Cady Coleman at Mission Control in Houston. "We know you could finish, but we need a little more time."

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"We were technically ready to come home, but we're still going through a lot of details," said astronaut Bill Shepherd, the commander of the three-member Expedition One team, the first crew to live and work on the space station.

In a crew news conference early Friday, Shepherd said the extra day would mean a more relaxed timeline.

"It's good for us. We're happy to stay one more day," Shepherd said, but he added he was looking forward to getting home.

"I know my wife is going to be anxious to see me. I'll be happy to get home on time if Captain Wetherbee and the Discovery crew can arrange that," said Shepherd, referring to shuttle commander Jim Wetherbee.

Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko have been living on Alpha since November.

Discovery delivered their replacements, Russian cosmonaut Yury Usachev, commander of the Expedition Two crew, and U.S. astronauts Susan Helms and Jim Voss.

The other crew members in orbit include Discovery pilot Jim Kelly and shuttle mission specialists Andy Thomas and Paul Richards.

Packing up is hard to do

Despite staying up late Thursday, the crew fell behind in packing up the 21-foot-long cargo module named Leonardo. It was used to ferry up 5 tons of experiments and supplies.

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Discovery and Alpha crew members work to repack the Leonardo module  

The new supplies have been unloaded, but the crew has been working overtime reloading the module with trash, used equipment and other items that need to be taken back to Earth.

Discovery will now spend an extra day docked to the station to allow mission managers and the crew more time to make sure Leonardo is properly packed.

NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said packing the cargo module is more complicated than stowing stuff in the family vehicle for a vacation.

"You have to preserve the shuttle's center of gravity, so it's not like packing a car," Hawley said.

Undocking is now set for 11:30 p.m. EST on Sunday.

Relief team goes to work

Inside the space station, Voss and Helms have been working on the control station for a 58-foot-long Canadian-built robot arm that will be delivered to Alpha next month.

The wakeup call Friday was Thomas Dolby's song "She Blinded Me With Science." Mission Control said the tune was played because the newly unloaded experiments mean scientific work can begin in the space station.



RELATED STORIES:
Shuttle to stay docked to Alpha an extra day
March 15, 2001
Discovery dodges space junk
March 14, 2001
Second spacewalk done
March 13, 2001
Discovery delivers Leonardo
March 12, 2001

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International space station
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