March 3, 2011

Astronauts Enjoying Time Off Today

Space shuttle Discovery astronauts are taking a little off-duty time today after performing two spacewalks and maintenance on the International Space Station (ISS).

Mission Control gave the 12 astronauts aboard the ISS the afternoon off on Thursday after the second and final spacewalk of Discovery's final journey.

Astronaut Alvin Drew, one of the spacewalkers, said earlier this week while performing the first space walk, "I had to keep reminding myself that I had a job to do and not just take in this gorgeous scenery around me."

"You are part of the scene. You've gone through the looking glass," he said in a series of TV interviews.

Astronaut Nicole Stott said the crew has talked a lot of about Discovery's final voyage into space.  The space shuttle is set to retire once it returns to earth.

Stott told reporters that the word "bittersweet" is used quite a bit to describe this last flight to Discovery, which she called "a really, really high performing spacecraft."

"I tend to think more 'bittersad,' " she told an interviewer.

She added: "It's just a part of history that I hope we hold on to and appreciate and that we celebrate when we get home and are walking away from her on the runway for the last time."

Shuttle commander Steven Lindsey told reporters the mission has gone "just absolutely spectacular" and he and his crew couldn't be happier.

The astronauts installed a new storage room on the ISS, and hooked up an equipment platform with a spare radiator.

They fired Discovery's thrusters on Thursday morning to steer the ISS into a slightly higher orbit. 

Discovery will remain at the space station until Sunday, which is a day longer than NASA had originally planned.  The extra time will be used to unload supplies and experiments from the storage unit.  They may get another extra day in orbit, which would stretch their mission to 13 days.


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