Astronauts continue module unpacking work (UPDATED)

Editor's note...
  • Posted at 07:08 AM, 03/04/11: Astronauts continue module unpacking work
  • Updated at 12:45 PM, 03/04/11: Adding crew news conference; quotes and details
CBS News

The Discovery astronauts are focusing on unloading the newly attached Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM, today, moving science gear and other equipment into the International Space Station and transferring packing material and unneeded gear to a Japanese cargo ship for disposal at the end of the month.

The shuttle Discovery, docked to the International Space Station, along with the gold-colored Japanese HTV cargo ship. The HTV is scheduled to be jettisoned March 28. (Photo: NASA TV)
Station commander Scott Kelly said having the shuttle crew around for two extra days to help out will save the lab crew valuable time after Discovery departs next week.

"In the original plan, they were not going to have much involvement in getting PMM basically emptied out of a lot of the hardware that needs to be disposed of on (Japanese) HTV (cargo ship)," he said. "So when they were going to leave, we were going to really be in a time crunch to get all these metal structures and foam and stuff that we want to dispose of in HTV, because HTV has to leave at a certain time.

"The (mission) extension gives us two extra days of six people, which is a lot of crew time, to get all that stuff, or some of it, done before they leave. It just helps maximize our time post undocking for things like science and other activities we have to perform on a daily basis."

Space station Flight Director Chris Edelen said flight planners are busy developing a revised timeline for Discovery's crew to account for a second extra day docked to the space station. NASA managers decided Thursday to add the bonus day to give the crew more time to help unload the PMM and to carry out required space station maintenance.

"What we're going to be doing on that day, so far, the plan is to work on our lab CDRA, that's the carbon dioxide removal assembly, and we're also planning to do some work on our oxygen generator, our OGA, oxygen generation assembly," Edelen said.

Two day ago, a heater used in the carbon dioxide removal assembly mounted in the station's Destiny laboratory module shorted out. A backup heater is working normally but to provide additional margin, Kelly and flight engineer Catherine Coleman installed a new zeolite "bed" in a second CDRA unit Thursday. Engineers completed activation and checkout of the second CDRA overnight and it appears to be working normally.

The CDRA system uses beds of zeolite crystals to trap carbon dioxide while allowing oxygen and nitrogen to pass through. Periodically, heaters are used to drive off the trapped CO2, which is vented overboard. During normal operations, one bed is used for CO2 removal while the other is being purged.

Astronaut Catherine Coleman floats out of the International Space Station's newly installed Permanent Multipurpose Module early Friday during work to unpack supplies and equipment. (Photo: NASA TV)
"We had a problem with the lab CDRA ... that's been doing the bulk of the carbon dioxide removal for this mission so far," Edelen said early Friday. "It experienced a heater short. ... The primary heater had a short and failed. The engineers have had some time to look at that failure signature and ... there is concern that short could propagate to the other heater and if it died, if we lost both heaters on that bed, we would essentially lose half the capability of that CDRA.

"So, the plan we are looking at for our flight day 10, the second extra day, is to have the crew go in and take the bed out of the lab CDRA and snip the wires to the failed heater, sort of like a James Bond movie, but not quite as dramatic with zero zero seven seconds remaining on the clock. But still, we need to be really careful when we do this to make sure we snip the right wire."

The Russian segment of the station uses a different system for CO2 removal. The cosmonauts have been working the past several days to restore their Vozdukh unit to normal operation after a series of glitches. Edelen reported today the system appears to be operating normally at full capacity.

Along with scheduling maintenance activity, NASA planners also are looking at the possibility of moving up work to unpack Robonaut 2, an experimental technology demonstration robot that was carried to the station inside the Permanent Multipurpose Module. The robot, still secured in its launch packaging, has been moved into the Destiny module to make room for PMM unloading.

During a call to the space station Thursday, President Barack Obama joked about getting Robonaut unpacked, urging the astronauts to "let him stretch his legs pretty soon."

Robonaut doesn't actually have legs -- it is an upper torso only -- and NASA does not plan to begin testing for several months. But the astronauts may move up work to unpack protective foam so it can be moved to a Japanese cargo ship that is scheduled to be jettisoned March 28.

"We've all been voting to move up getting him out of his box," Coleman told a reporter Friday. "There's a very elaborate choreography of all the things that have to come out of the PMM and get stowed different places and folks on the ground are working real hard at that and we'll see if we end up being able to bring Robonaut out before Discovery leaves. I'm really not sure.

"I am looking forward to working with him. As we bring robots up into space, one of the reasons to do that is just to understand A), how to work with them and B), just the mechanics of how they work and how that's affected by zero G. We want to learn those lessons here on the inside of the space station before we send them out to the outside of the space station or to other planets. ... Robonaut is a good first step."

Here is an updated timeline of the crew's activities for flight day nine (in EST and mission elapsed time; includes rev. G of the NASA TV schedule):

04:23 AM...07...11...30...STS/ISS crew wakeup
06:08 AM...07...13...15...ISS daily planning conference
07:08 AM...07...14...15...PAO event
07:33 AM...07...14...40...Permanent Multipurpose Module outfitting begins
07:43 AM...07...14...50...Lab 1P4 storage rack transfer
08:33 AM...07...15...40...ERB transfer
09:58 AM...07...17...05...A4 treadmill relocate
10:38 AM...07...17...45...PMM flag ceremony
10:48 AM...07...17...55...Joint crew news conference
11:33 AM...07...18...40...Joint crew photo
11:53 AM...07...19...00...Joint crew meal
12:00 PM...07...19...07...Interpreted replay of crew news conference
12:53 PM...07...20...00...PMM outfitting continues
01:18 PM...07...20...25...A1 stow reconfig/F3 unpack from stowage platform
01:18 PM...07...20...25...F3 stowage platform removal
02:53 PM...07...22...00...P3 unpack from stowage platform
03:38 PM...07...22...45...S3 storage rack deploy
03:38 PM...07...22...45...P3 stowage platform removal
04:28 PM...07...23...35...ISS daily planning conference
06:00 PM...07...01...07...Mission status briefing on NTV
06:53 PM...08...02...00...ISS crew sleep begins
07:23 PM...08...02...30...STS crew sleep begins
08:00 PM...08...03...07...Daily highlights reel on NTV (repeated hourly)