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STS-118: Build the Station. Build the Future


STS-118: Build the Station. Build the Future.


sts118s001 -- STS-118 Insignia Like all shuttle missions, STS-118 is 
about the future: putting the International Space Station a step closer 
to completion and gathering experience that will help people return to 
the moon and go on to Mars.

But this mission also will see a two decade-old dream realized and a 
vision of inspiration completed. Twenty-two years after first being 
selected as Christa McAuliffe’s backup in the Teacher in Space Project, 
Barbara Morgan will strap into space shuttle Endeavour as a 
fully-trained astronaut. She is one of five mission specialists in the 
seven-member crew.

“The mission has lots of angles,” Matt Abbott, lead shuttle flight 
director, said. “There’s a little bit of assembly; there’s some 
resupply; there’s some repairs. And there are some high-visibility 
education and public affairs events. It’s a little bit of everything.”

The little bit of assembly – as in assembly of the International Space 
Station – refers to the next segment that will be attached to the right 
side of the station's backbone, or truss. The new segment, known as the 
S5, is relatively small and weighs about 5,000 pounds. The piece 
provides clearance between sets of solar arrays on the truss structure.

That doesn’t mean, however, that installing it will be easy. Every crew 
member will play a part. Pilot Charles Hobaugh and space station Flight 
Engineer Clay Anderson will operate the station robotic arm that moves 
the segment into place, while spacewalkers David Williams and Richard 
Mastracchio provide guidance from the outside and finish the 
installation. Commander Scott Kelly and mission specialists Tracy 
Caldwell and Benjamin Alvin Drew will help out inside. Morgan will 
operate the shuttle robotic arm to provide television views of the 

“It’s less than two inches from some critical electronic components that 
we want to make sure we don’t come in contact with,” Kelly said. “So 
that’s a very tight clearance.”

jsc2007e15871 -- STS-118 Mission Specialist Barbara MorganThe resupply 
is not so little, either. This will be the last dedicated shuttle 
mission providing cargo to the station for 12 to 15 months. Russian 
Progress vehicles and the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer 
Vehicle (ATV) will bring cargo to the station in the interim. So 
Endeavour will carry enough supplies to last the station residents for 

“I think right now the manifest has us bringing up about 5,000 pounds 
and then bringing down about 5,000 pounds,” Kelly said. “So it’s a lot 
of spare parts, food, clothing, scientific experiments. We’ll unload 
that and then reload it with stuff that needs to come home – garbage, 
spare parts that are no longer needed on the station.”

Then there’s the repair work, which Lead Station Flight Director Joel 
Montalbano expects to be one of the most difficult parts of the mission. 
One of the station’s control moment gyroscopes – a spinning wheel used 
to control the space station’s orientation – experienced problems and 
was shut down in October. Program managers determined that it needed to 
be replaced during STS-118. Kelly’s crew had less than a year to train 
for the task.

“The other stuff is a challenge, but we’ve known it was coming,” 
Montalbano said. “We’ve developed procedures, we’ve trained the crew – 
it’s all known. The gyroscope, it’s a little bit new to us. We’re 
putting a major task in when we’re well into training.”

jsc2007e18263 -- STS-118 Mission Specialist David WilliamsLuckily, it’s 
not new to NASA. The crew of STS-114 replaced a faulty gyroscope in 
2005, and Montalbano said learning from their experience should help the 
team overcome the time crunch.

Added all together, it’s a lot of stuff to get done in one mission – but 
thanks to an electrical boost from the space station, the 118 crew could 
have a little more time than most missions to get it all done. Endeavour 
will be the first to try out a new system designed to let the shuttle 
use electrical power from the station.

The extra juice will allow Endeavour to stay in space for an extended 
period of time while docked to the station. STS-118 currently is an 
11-day mission with three spacewalks planned. Mission managers could add 
three more days and an additional spacewalk after the Station-Shuttle 
Power Transfer System (SSPTS) is activated and checked out.

Future missions could gain as many as six extra days once all the 
station’s solar arrays are installed and providing power to the SSPTS. 
This will become more important as the construction of the station 

“I’m really excited about going up and doing our jobs and doing them 
well,” Morgan said. “I’m excited about experiencing the whole 
spaceflight, seeing Earth from space for the very first time and 
experiencing weightlessness and what that’s all about. I am excited 
about seeing what it’s like living and working onboard the International 
Space Station.”

Morgan trained side by side with McAuliffe and witnessed the 1986 
Challenger accident in which McAuliffe and her six fellow crew members 
died. The Teacher in Space Project was suspended then, but Morgan held 
on to her NASA ties. In the months following that tragedy, she went on 
the visits McAuliffe would have made, talking to children and teachers 
all over the country. Then, when she was selected in 1998 to become a 
full-fledged astronaut, she jumped at the opportunity.

In 2002, Morgan was chosen as the first educator to become a mission 
specialist astronaut. The Educator Astronaut Project evolved from the 
Teacher in Space Project. Both aimed to engage and attract students to 
explore the excitement and wonder of spaceflight and to inspire and 
support educators. Morgan's primary duty is the same as it is for the 
entire crew -- accomplish the planned objectives of the station assembly 
mission. But she also will take part in several education-related 

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