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STS-116 MCC Status Report #22



7:30 a.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas


STS-116 MCC Status Report #22

Discovery crew members will make a final check of the shuttle’s heat 
shields today, using a sensor-equipped 50-foot extension of the 
shuttle’s robotic arm.

After the inspection, Discovery will deploy two small scientific 
satellites. A third will be deployed Thursday.

Discovery Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein and Mission 
Specialist Nicholas Patrick will use the boom and sensor to look at 
thermal tiles on the shuttle’s underside. They also will inspect the 
reinforced carbon-carbon that protects the leading edges of the wings 
and the nose.

The heat shield inspection activities begin at 9:52 a.m. CST with the 
unberthing of the boom extension. Scanning of the heat shield with the 
sensor system begins at 10:52 a.m. and should take about five hours. The 
boom is to be reberthed into its cradle along the right side of the 
shuttle cargo bay at 4:22 p.m.

During the inspection, other Discovery astronauts will stow equipment in 
preparation for landing. Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Christer 
Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Thomas Reiter will begin packing up in 
the shuttle’s cabin and the Spacehab module in its cargo bay.

At about 6:19 p.m. CST, the Microelectromechanical System-Based PICOSAT 
Inspector (MEPSI) mini-satellite will be released from Discovery's cargo 
bay. The coffee cup-sized satellite will demonstrate the use of tiny, 
low-power satellites to observe larger spacecraft. It will test the 
function of small camera systems and gyroscopes.

At about 7:56 p.m. CST, the Radar Fence Transponder (RAFT) satellite 
will be released from the cargo bay. The satellite is a student 
experiment from the United States Naval Academy that uses picosatellites 
to test the Space Surveillance Radar Fence.

All activities aboard Discovery are aimed toward a landing that would 
begin with a deorbit engine firing by the shuttle at 1:53 p.m. CST 
Friday that would lead to a touchdown at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, 
Fla., at 2:56 p.m. CST Friday. Mission Control continues to monitor the 
weather in Florida, and shuttle landing opportunities at both Edwards 
Air Force Base, Calif., and at White Sands Space Harbor, N.M., also will 
be considered on Friday.

Fuglesang and Reiter are European Space Agency astronauts. Fuglesang, 
from Sweden, participated in three of the four spacewalks during 
Discovery’s stay at the station. Curbeam set a record for spacewalks on 
a shuttle mission, performing four. Reiter, from Germany, is returning 
aboard Discovery after six months on the station.

Discovery’s crew was awakened at 6:47 a.m. by “Say You’ll be Mine,” 
performed by Christopher Cross. It was for Reiter.

On the orbiting laboratory, Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria 
and flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Sunita Williams are beginning a 
light-duty day after eight days of joint operations with Discovery. At 
6:30 a.m. CST they were trailing Discovery by about 730 statute miles. 
The gap was increasing by more than 80 miles with each 91-minute orbit 
of the Earth.

The next STS-116 status report will be issued Wednesday afternoon, or 
earlier if events warrant.

- end -

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