NASA Discovery astronauts unload 'moving van', prep for spacewalks

NASA Discovery space shuttle astronauts get to work, spacewalk

Discovery docks at ISS
NASA Discovery space shuttle astronauts have begun the heavy lifting portion of their 13-day program today by beginning to unload the 17,000 pounds of equipment from the "moving van" known as the Leonardo Multi Purpose Logistics Module. 

Discovery's crew lifted the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module from the shuttle's payload bay and attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module last night.  Leonardo is stuffed with supplies, new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the station's laboratories. This is the final compliment of laboratory facilities that will complete the station's overall research capabilities, NASA stated. 

21 critical future NASA missions 

According to NASA, this is Leonardo's final round-trip to the station. When it returns on Discovery's next and expected final space shuttle mission, STS-133, it will remain as an extra room.

While unloading equipment is the first task, others are prepping for the mission's 3 space walks.  According to NASA the three, 6.5 hour space walks will include the following: 

  • On flight day 5, the crew will use the station's robotic arm to remove a new ammonia tank from shuttle's payload bay and temporarily stow it on the station. Ammonia is used to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators located outside. The spacewalkers then will retrieve a seed experiment outside the Japanese laboratory. Next, the pair will install a grapple bar to the new ammonia tank on the station's truss. The pair also will replace a failed gyroscope that is part of the station's navigation system. Lastly they will prepare six batteries for removal and replacement on the next mission in May. 
  • On flight day 7, using the station's arm, the astronauts will remove the empty ammonia tank from the station's truss and temporarily stow it on an equipment cart. The new tank then will be installed and connected to the truss for use. The station's arm then will temporarily stow the old tank on another part of the station's structure until the mission's third spacewalk. Space walkers also will retrieve debris shields from the Quest airlock to return to Earth.
  • On flight day 9, using the station's arm, the crew will move the old tank into the shuttle's payload bay for return to Earth. The spacewalkers also will remove the grapple bar from the old ammonia tank and stow it on a spare parts platform. The pair then will work on the Dextre robot, installing a plate and camera light. Lastly, they will remove thermal covers on Dextre and replace a burned out light on a truss camera. 

The shuttle crew once again tried to engage shuttle's Ku-Band Antenna System but it remains inoperable. NASA says the loss of the high-data rate television and radar capability isn't a critical issue. NASA has already worked out a system to work around the problem. 

NASA noted a couple of "firsts" for the shuttle and ISS. This is the first time four women have been aboard the same spacecraft during a mission and the first time two Japanese astronauts have been aboard the space station at the same time.

 Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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