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NASA WELCOMES DISCOVERY CREW HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS



SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR N1ORC - AMSAT A/C #31468

Dec. 22, 2006

Grey Hautaluoma
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668

Jessica Rye/Katherine Trinidad
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
321-867-2468 

RELEASE: 06-375

NASA WELCOMES DISCOVERY CREW HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew 
returned home Friday after a 13-day journey of more than 5.3 million 
miles in space. Discovery's STS-116 mission successfully reconfigured 
the International Space Station's power and cooling systems from a 
temporary setup to a permanent mode and added a new piece to the 
station's backbone. 

Discovery's Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein and mission 
specialists Nicholas Patrick, Bob Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Thomas 
Reiter and Christer Fuglesang landed Friday, Dec. 22, at NASA's 
Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at 5:32 p.m. EST. Reiter and Fuglesang 
are European Space Agency astronauts.

After landing, Polansky told Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space 
Center, Houston, "Seven thrilled people right here. We're just really 
proud of the entire NASA team that put this together. Thank you, and 
I think it's going to be a great holiday."

The flight was the second in a series of missions that are among the 
most complex in space history. Discovery's crew rewired the station's 
power system and delivered a key component of the station's 
structure. The segment will enable future missions to attach a new 
set of solar arrays. 

The mission involved intensive ground commands as the station's power 
was shut down and rerouted in stages on two spacewalks. As systems 
were then powered up for the first time on their new channels, the 
station's power system was in its final configuration, ready for 
further expansion with more solar arrays and laboratories to be 
launched in 2007. As part of the station power reconfiguration and 
assembly process, the station flight control team uplinked a total of 
17,901 computer commands, averaging about 2,000 commands per day. 
During a typical day on the station, flight controllers give 
approximately 800 commands.

The newest resident of the International Space Station also traveled 
aboard Discovery. Astronaut Sunita Williams joined the crew of 
Expedition 14. She is scheduled to spend six months on the station.

Curbeam, Fuglesang and Williams, with the help of crewmates, made four 
spacewalks that completed the construction tasks, reconfigured power 
and cooling systems, and retracted a snagged solar array. The 
astronauts also replaced a failed camera, cleared a worksite 
essential to the next shuttle mission, reconfigured power to 
station's Russian segment and installed panels to provide additional 
protection from space debris.

The fourth spacewalk was added to the mission to retract a solar array 
that only partially folded into its box on flight day 5. The solar 
wings were retracted far enough so that the new arrays installed in 
September could begin to fully rotate and track the sun to provide 
power. Mission managers decided, however, to address the problem of 
the partially retracted arrays while the shuttle crew was on the 
station. With only several days notice, mission engineers in both the 
shuttle and station programs developed a spacewalk plan for Curbeam 
and Fuglesang that resulted in the arrays' successful retraction on 
flight day 10. 

Discovery's launch was the first night liftoff of a shuttle since Nov. 
2002. Several inspections in orbit revealed no critical damage, and 
Discovery's thermal protection system was declared safe for re-entry 
on the flight's thirteenth day. 

The day before landing, pilot Bill Oefelein, who was born in Alaska, 
and the rest of the Discovery crew talked to Alaskan school children 
from the shuttle's flight deck. 

With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the next 
phase of International Space Station assembly. Preparations continue 
for Space Shuttle Atlantis' launch, targeted for March 2007, on the 
STS-117 mission to deliver to the station the S3/S4 truss segment and 
a third set of solar arrays. 

For more on the STS-116 mission and the upcoming STS-117 mission, 
visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

	
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