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STS-116 MCC Status Report #25

> NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery Set to Land Friday
    6 p.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006
> Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
>     12.21.06
> STS-116 MCC Status Report #25
> Discovery’s astronauts completed preparations for a planned return to 
> Earth on Friday and received word from Mission Control that their 
> final inspection showed the shuttle’s heat shield is in good shape.
> STS-116 Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein, and Flight 
> Engineer Bob Curbeam started checking out Discovery’s aerodynamic 
> control surfaces at 9:31 a.m. CST, and test firing the shuttle's 
> steering jets at 10:11 a.m. The commander and pilot also practiced 
> landings on a laptop computer trainer, and performed final checks of 
> the communications systems that will be used for landing.
> A little later in the day, Mission Specialists Christer Fuglesang and 
> Joan Higginbotham deployed a third small satellite from the shuttle’s 
> cargo bay. The Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE) 
> microsatellite, ejected at 12:23 p.m., will gather information on 
> atmospheric drag in low-Earth orbit. The first two microsatellites 
> were deployed Wednesday.
> Mission Specialists Nicholas Patrick joined the rest of the crew in 
> talking with reporters from CNN and ABC. Oefelein, who considers 
> Anchorage, Alaska, to be his hometown, was the main focus of questions 
> from students at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.
> Throughout the day, the crew took turns securing their gear for 
> landing. The crew will awaken at 6:17 a.m. Friday, and begin final 
> deorbit preparations at 9:48 a.m.
> Entry Flight Director Norm Knight said landing sites at Kennedy Space 
> Center, Fla.; Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and White Sands Space 
> Harbor, N.M., all will be activated to support landing. The Friday 
> forecast calls for a chance of rain and low clouds at Kennedy; 
> potential strong crosswinds at Edwards; and acceptable landing 
> conditions at White Sands.
> Knight said the entry team’s strategy will be to watch weather 
> conditions carefully, focusing – in order – on the first landing 
> opportunity in Florida, the second opportunities in Florida and 
> California, and the third opportunities in California and New Mexico. 
> A fourth California opportunity is available, but may not be used. 
> Saturday landing opportunities are available at all three locations if 
> weather prohibits a Friday landing.
> Discovery’s first landing opportunity Friday is to Kennedy, beginning 
> with a deorbit engine firing at 1:49 p.m. CST with wheels touching 
> down at 2:56 p.m. CST. The next opportunity is to Edwards with an 
> engine firing at 3:19 p.m. CST leading to a 4:27 p.m. touchdown. The 
> first opportunity to land at White Sands begins with an engine firing 
> at 3:20 p.m. CST leading to a touchdown in New Mexico at 4:27 p.m.
> Opportunities also exist for Discovery to land at Edwards with an 
> engine firing at 4:54 p.m. CST leading to touchdown at 6 p.m. CST. A 
> second opportunity to land at White Sands begins with an engine firing 
> by the shuttle at 4:57 p.m. CST leading to a 6:02 p.m.
> touchdown. The final Friday landing opportunity is to Edwards, 
> beginning with an engine firing at 6:32 p.m. CST leading to a 
> touchdown at 7:36 p.m. CST.
> Meanwhile, the Expedition 14 crew aboard the International Space 
> Station, is settling back to normal operations with its new member, 
> Flight Engineer Sunita Williams. Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and 
> Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, are about halfway through their 
> six-month increment. Williams, who arrived aboard Discovery, is just 
> beginning her six months on the station. She’ll span the last half of 
> Expedition 14 and the first half of Expedition 15.
> The next STS-116 status report will be issued Friday morning or 
> earlier if events warrant.
> - end -
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