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Crew Checks Out Heat Shield, Readies for Landing


*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>

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