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Mission STS-118: Investing in Future Exploration


Mission STS-118: Investing in Future Exploration


Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on the STS-118 mission.Every mission 
that adds to the International Space Station brings the 
first-of-its-kind orbiting research facility one step closer to 
completion. But the STS-118 mission went one step further by also 
reaching out directly from space to the next generation of explorers.

The 13-day mission was highlighted by a series of conversations between 
students on Earth and crew members including teacher-turned-astronaut 
Barbara Morgan, as well as installation of the S5 truss and external 
stowage platform 3. The crew also transferred equipment and supplies to 
the station on the flight, which was the last for the SPACEHAB module.

Space Shuttle Endeavour rose from its oceanside launch pad on time at 
6:36 p.m. EDT on Aug. 8, 2007. The liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in 
Florida marked Endeavour's return to space after spending 
four-and-a-half years in an extensive overhaul period. The newly 
improved orbiter performed well during the climb to orbit.

Image to right: Space Shuttle Endeavour roars skyward on the STS-118 
mission. Image credit: NASA/John Kechele, Scott Haun, Tom Farrar


The first full day in space focused on inspecting the orbiter's 
heat-resistant thermal protection system. The crew used the orbiter boom 
sensor system to methodically sweep over Endeavour's wings, nose cap and 
orbital maneuvering system in search of possible damage sustained during 
launch. The day concluded with a review of tools to be used during the 
upcoming rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.

Flight Day 3 began with Commander Scott Kelly putting Endeavour through 
the rendezvous pitch maneuver, a slow-motion backflip below the station. 
This allowed Expedition 15 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and station 
Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Clay Anderson to take video and still 
images of the orbiter's underbelly. The images taken during the maneuver 
revealed areas of tile damage, and managers chose to do a focused 
inspection the next day to get a better look.

Endeavour rotates through the rendezvous pitch maneuver.After docking, 
the shuttle and station crews opened the hatches between them and warmly 
greeted one another in a welcome ceremony. The day also featured the 
first activation of the new Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System, which 
enables the orbiter to draw power from the space station for an extended 

Image to right: Endeavour rotates through the rendezvous pitch maneuver, 
allowing the space station crew to photograph the vehicle's thermal 
protection system. Image credit: NASA

Mission Specialists Dave Williams and Rick Mastracchio ventured out of 
the station's Quest airlock on Flight Day 4 for the first of the 
mission's four spacewalks. During the six-hour outing, the duo provided 
assistance as Pilot Charlie Hobaugh used the station's robotic arm to 
attach the new S5 truss segment on the starboard side of the station's 
backbone truss structure. Mission Specialist Tracy Caldwell served as 
the spacewalk coordinator during each of the mission's excursions.

A more focused inspection of Endeavour's thermal protection system the 
following day revealed one particular area of concern: a 
3.5-inch-by-2-inch gouge in the tile, apparently a result of foam that 
broke off the external tank during launch, bounced off one of the tank's 
struts and impacted the orbiter's underside. NASA's Mission Management 
Team, which meets daily during space shuttle missions, began several 
days of analysis on the tile issue to determine the best course of 
action. The team also announced the mission would be extended from 11 to 
14 days due to the perfect operation of the new power transfer system, 
and added a fourth spacewalk to the itinerary.

On Flight Day 6, Williams and Mastracchio participated in the mission's 
second spacewalk, replacing a failed control moment gyroscope with a 
new, fully functioning unit. There are four such gyroscopes on the 
station: two to maintain the outpost's orientation and two backup units.

The STS-118 and Expedition 15 crew members gather for a photo.Image to 
right: The Expedition 15 and STS-118 crews gather in the Destiny 
laboratory on the International Space Station. ISS crew members on the 
front row, from left: Flight Engineer Clayton C. Anderson, Commander 
Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov. STS-118 crew members 
on the middle row, from left: Alvin Drew, Barbara R. Morgan and the 
Canadian Space Agency's Dave Williams, all mission specialists, and 
Commander Scott Kelly. STS-118 crewmembers on the back row, from left: 
Pilot Charlie Hobaugh, along with Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio 
and Tracy Caldwell. Image credit: NASA

Caldwell celebrated her birthday in space on Flight Day 7. Despite the 
festive occasion, the day's to-do list was a long one. Using the 
shuttle's robotic arm, Caldwell and Mission Specialist Morgan carefully 
removed an external stowage platform from Endeavour's payload bay. With 
Hobaugh and Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson using the 
station's arm, the astronauts secured external stowage platform 3 to the 
station's P3 truss.

The day's activities continued with a question-and-answer session from 
space with students gathered at the Discovery Center of Boise, Idaho. 
During the event, Williams, Morgan, Anderson and Mission Specialist 
Alvin Drew answered a wide variety of questions submitted by inquisitive 
students, such as, "How does being a teacher relate to being an astronaut?"

"Astronauts and teachers actually do the same thing," Morgan answered. 
"We explore, we discover and we share -- and the great thing about being 
a teacher is we get to do that with kids."

Flight Day 8 was highlighted by the mission's third spacewalk, during 
which Mastracchio and Anderson spent more than five hours preparing the 
P6 truss and solar arrays for their move to the end of the P5 truss 
during the upcoming STS-120 mission.

Mission Specialist Rick Mastraccio during the third spacewalk.Mission 
Control ended the spacewalk early after Mastracchio discovered a small 
hole near the thumb of his left glove. The hole was in the second of 
five layers and did not cause any leak or danger to him. However, as a 
precaution, he returned to the Quest airlock while Anderson completed 
his final task.

Image to left: Mission Specialist Rick Mastracchio (shown) and 
Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson (out of frame) participate 
in the mission's third spacewalk. Image credit: NASA

Morgan and Drew spoke with students at the Challenger Center in 
Alexandria, Va., on Flight Day 9. June Scobee Rodgers, widow of 
Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, hosted the educational event in which 
students again had the chance to speak with the astronauts.

Later that day, the Mission Management Team announced its decision not 
to conduct a spacewalk to repair the tile. Days of testing and analysis 
on the ground had shown that the gouge was not a danger to the crew or 
the orbiter, and a spacewalk to repair it would have carried an 
additional set of risks.

Another concern soon appeared as computer models indicated the powerful 
Hurricane Dean could affect NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, home 
of Mission Control. Faced with the possibility that Johnson may need to 
close in the coming days, mission managers ultimately decided Endeavour 
would undock from the station one day earlier in order to land Aug. 21, 
one day ahead of schedule.

The International Space Station in its new configuration after 
STS-118.The mission's fourth and final spacewalk highlighted Flight Day 
11, as Williams and Anderson spent about five hours working to install 
an antenna and a stand for the shuttle's robotic arm extension boom, as 
well as retrieve experiments from the station's exterior for analysis on 
Earth. Following the final spacewalk, the shuttle and station crews said 
farewell and the hatch closed.

Image to right: Backdropped by a blue Earth, the International Space 
Station, in its new configuration, moves away from Space Shuttle 
Endeavour. Image credit: NASA

Shortly after Endeavour undocked from the station the next morning, 
Mastracchio and Caldwell used the orbiter boom sensor system to conduct 
one final "late inspection" of the shuttle's protective tiles to ensure 
the thermal protection system was ready to withstand the trials of re-entry.

With Hurricane Dean now headed toward Mexico, managers chose not to 
close Johnson Space Center. Endeavour's landing schedule was not changed.

The astronauts spent their final full day in space stowing equipment and 
supplies and testing the orbiter's steering jets and flight control 
surfaces in final preparations for landing.

The STS-118 mission ended on Aug. 21 as smoothly as it started. After a 
perfect deorbit burn and a safe journey through Earth's atmosphere, 
Endeavour touched down on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 at 12:32 p.m. 
EDT, wrapping up a nearly 5.3-million-mile voyage designed to inspire 
future generations.

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