Discovery leaves the ISS

by Chris Bergin

Discovery has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) and is due back on the ground early on Monday.

The highly successful mission (STS-114) saw Discovery and her seven member crew visit the ISS for the first time in two and a half years by a US Shuttle. However, it may be some time more before another performs the same mission.

Yesterday, The Raffaello module, used to ferry in food, supplies and spare parts to the ISS, was parked back in the shuttle cargo bay ready for departure. It is crammed with waste and equipment being sent back to Earth from the cramped orbiting lab.

Delicate DIY repairs had to be carried out by astronauts after a problem with the gap filler between heat-resistant tiles. However, a second round of repairs was ruled out after NASA engineers decided that a torn protective thermal blanket below the cockpit window would not endanger the Orbiter on re-entry.

After circling the space station, Discovery will head back towards Earth and is expected to land back at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 9.46am UK Time on Monday, weather permitting.

If the weather is bad, the Orbiter could be kept in space for two more days, or re-routed to California.

The re-entry, which starts about an hour before landing, will be nerve-racking for the crew and NASA after the shuttle Columbia burned up killing its seven astronauts in 2003.

“You only get one shot at it, since we are only a big glider,” shuttle flight director Paul Hill explained.

Meanwhile, NASA has admitted there will be no more shuttle missions until the problem with foam insulation which tore off Discovery’s fuel tank on launch is solved.

The story of work being undertaken on the same area of the PAL Ramp prior to shipping to KSC was first revealed on this site on Flight Day 2, and has since been reported by the media as a whole yesterday.

To see the orginal PAL Ramp Story, click here:

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