Discovery’s Final Day in Orbit

Discovery is spending its final day in orbit, and is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at either 9:58 AM Phoenix time (1658 UTC) (orbit 202) or 11:34 AM Phoenix time (orbit 203) on Wednesday.

Prior to reentry tomorrow, Discovery astronauts powered up one of the auxiliary power units and performed tests on the orbiter’s flight control surfaces. This provides assurance to the Mission Control staff and the Space Shuttle crew that elevons and speed brake will control the spacecraft once the shutle enters the atmosphere.

The second of the main tasks today was the firing of the Space Shuttle’s Reaction Control System (RCS) thruster rockets.

Discovery Day 12 Over Morocco
Discovery Day 12 Over Morocco From ISS
Image Credit: NASA

Each was fired in a standard two-pulse checkout that ensures they will properly control the shuttle during Wednesday’s de-orbit and entry back to Earth. All the jets performed normally.

Depending on whether Discovery reenters during orbit 202 or 203, the track will either cross the southern Pacific and the Yucatan peninsula (202) or cross northern Mexico, southern Texas and Louisiana (203). Details can be found at NASA’s landing map page.

If Discovery is unable to land Wednesday due to weather, additional opportunities are available on Thursday at Kennedy and at the backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

If Discovery lands Wednesday, it will have spent a total of 365 days in space and traveled more than 148 million miles during 39 flights. It launched on its first mission on 30 August 1984.

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