NASA managers extend shuttle Discovery's mission by one day (UPDATED)

Editor's note...
  • Posted at 06:22 PM, 02/28/11: NASA managers extend shuttle Discovery's mission by one day
  • Updated at 09:30 PM, 02/28/11: Adding mission status briefing
CBS News

NASA managers Monday decided to extend the shuttle Discovery's space station resupply mission by one day to give the combined crews more time to unload a new U.S. storage module and, possibly, to stage an out-of-this-world photo opportunity.

A look inside the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM, before launch aboard the shuttle Discovery. The module is loaded with supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. (Photos: NASA)
U.S. and Russian mission managers are considering a plan that calls for a three-man Soyuz spacecraft to undock from the station for a photo fly-around to capture views of the complex with the shuttle docked, along with a full complement of visiting Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships and crew ferry craft.

Discovery's mission is the last time all of the international spacecraft will be docked at the station at the same time before the shuttle fleet is retired later this summer.

"We just wanted to let you know your plus-one docked day is approved," Stan Love radioed shuttle commander Steven Lindsey and station commander Scott Kelly. "The focus of that will be PMM (Permanent Multipurpose Module) outfitting. We are still awaiting a formal decision on the fly around. We expect that to come out of the flight day six (Tuesday) Mission Management Team meeting."

The Permanent Multipurpose Module will be attached to the Earth-facing port of the station's central Unity module early Tuesday. A new flight day 10 will be inserted into the crew's timeline for March 5. Along with unloading the PMM, the astronauts also will move packing material and other no-longer-needed gear to a Japanese cargo ship called the HTV that will be de-orbited after Discovery undocks.

"What we gain with the additional day is an additional day with, really, nine U.S. crew members, or 12 crew members total on the vehicle, to help unload the PMM and get all of whatever we were going to bring home in HTV relocated from PMM over to HTV," said space station Flight Director Royce Renfrew. "So the plus-one day actually buys us a full crew day of six crew member that we would not normally have on board the vehicle to do that transfer activity.

:"If we turn around then and do the Soyuz fly about activity, we really don't lose that additional transfer activity because the only crew members who won't be on board or wouldn't be involved in the transfer ops would be the three (Soyuz) crew members. ... We'd still be able to get a lot of that done."

With the mission extension, Discovery now will undock from the space station one day later, on March 6, and land back at the Kennedy Space Center around 11:35 a.m. on March 8 to close out its 39th and final mission.