March 6, 2011

A Week In Orbit For 2 Space Crews

As their week-long visit to the International Space Station comes to an end, two space crews totaling 12 astronauts shared a few more maintenance tasks and chores Saturday.

The hatches between shuttle Discovery and the ISS will close Sunday afternoon and the shuttle will undock Monday morning.

Both crews worked to refresh and renew the space station's air system. Both the station's oxygen generator and carbon dioxide removal system had been malfunctioning. They also made sure a Japanese cargo carrier was properly loaded with refuse.

The cargo carrier will be let loose at the end of March and will reenter Earth's atmosphere, burning up. The vessel is full of packing foam from the equipment delivered to the ISS by Discovery. Included will be the packing material from the R2 humanoid robot, which is the first humanoid robot in space.

NASA gave the crew two extra days at the 220-mile-above-Earth space lab to help with all the unloading and repair work.

"Hope you are enjoying your extended stay in your out-of-this-world accommodations. The innkeeper says you can stay a couple more days if you behave," NASA's Mission Control joked.

This is the last voyage for Discovery, NASA's oldest and most traveled shuttle. The spaceship will be retired after Wednesday's planned landing. It will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution for display.


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