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STS-116 MCC Status Report #23



8:30 p.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas


STS-116 MCC Status Report #23

Inspection of Discovery’s heat shield was conducted today as the seven 
crewmembers began the task of preparing their ship for their high-speed 
return to Earth on Friday.

One hour after removing the sensor-equipped 50-foot Orbiter Boom Sensor 
System from the payload bay with the shuttle’s robotic arm, Commander 
Mark Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein and Mission Specialist Nicholas 
Patrick began to scan the reinforced carbon-carbon surface of 
Discovery’s wings and its nose cap to ensure the shuttle incurred no 
micro-meteoroid debris damage during its time in space. The six-hour 
inspection was completed at 4:22 p.m. Imagery and damage assessment 
teams at the Johnson Space Center immediately began analyzing the data. 
A report will be offered to mission managers on Thursday.

While the inspection was conducted, Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, 
Joan Higginbotham and European Space Agency astronauts Christer 
Fuglesang and Thomas Reiter began to pack up equipment for Discovery’s 
scheduled landing Friday at the Kennedy Space Center. With only one 
wave-off day available on Saturday, backup landing sites at Edwards Air 
Force Base, CA and the White Sands Space Harbor, NM are being activated 
for landing support Friday in the event weather diverts the shuttle and 
its crew from the Florida spaceport. Discovery’s scheduled landing time 
at the Kennedy Space Center Friday is 2:56 p.m. CST.(3:56 PM EST-
2056 UTC)

Late today, Discovery’s astronauts sent commands to deploy small 
technology demonstration satellites for the Department of Defense’s 
Space Test Program.

The crew deployed a pair of coffee cup-sized satellites at 6:19 p.m. CST 
to demonstrate how a small, low-powered autonomous satellite can observe 
larger spacecraft. The Micro-Electromechanical System-Based PICOSAT 
Inspector, known as MEPSI, may one day use on-board imagery to assess 
spacecraft damage.

The crew then released another pair of small scientific satellites as 
part of a student experiment sponsored by the United States Naval 
Academy at 7:58 p.m. CST. The Radar Fence Transponder, or RAFT, 
experiment is designed to test technology for new spacecraft design.

The last satellite experiment, the Atmospheric Neutral Density 
Experiment, or ANDE, will be deployed from Discovery’s payload bay 
Thursday afternoon. ANDE consists of two spherical microsatellites that 
will measure the density and composition of the low Earth orbit 
atmosphere while being tracked from the ground. The data will be used to 
better predict the movement of objects in orbit.

Aboard the International Space Station, the newly comprised Expedition 
14 crew, Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineers Mikhail 
Tyurin and Suni Williams, enjoyed their first full day together after 
Discovery’s departure yesterday.

Discovery’s astronauts will begin its sleep period just after 10 p.m. 
CST and will be awakened Thursday at 6:17 p.m. for a day in which they 
will check out the shuttle’s aero surfaces and steering jets in 
preparation for Friday’s landing.

The next STS-116 status report will be issued Thursday morning, or 
earlier, if events warrant.

- end -

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