Status Report

NASA STS-134 Report #07 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, May 19, 2011 (with video)

By SpaceRef Editor
May 19, 2011
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NASA STS-134 Report #07  5 p.m. CDT Thursday, May 19, 2011 (with video)

Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – An instrument that seeks to unite astronomy and high-energy physics to give us a better understanding of our universe was installed on the International Space Station by space shuttle Endeavour astronauts Thursday.

Attachment of the $2 billion, 15,251-pound Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS) atop the Starboard 3 segment of the truss was confirmed at 4:46 a.m. CDT by Endeavour Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff operating the station’s Canadarm2. Earlier, Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel and Roberto Vittori had used the shuttle arm to take AMS out of Endeavour’s cargo bay to hand it off to the station arm.

The truss is to be the home of the instrument for the life of the station, through at least 2020. The instrument is expected to see 25,000 cosmic particles a second and can downlink six megabits of data per second. The AMS project involves 600 scientists and technicians, 56 institutions and 16 countries. Following initial checkouts, the team members in mission control were quickly able to see a vast amount of data from the detectors already.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Samuel Ting, AMS principal investigator, congratulated crew members by radio from the station flight control room in the Mission Control Center.

He thanked them for the safe delivery to the station. He said their work has “taken us one step closer to realizing the scientific potential of AMS.”

Experts on the ground continue to perform analysis based on images taken from the station of Endeavour’s thermal protection system during the backflip maneuver while the shuttle approached the station. The teams are making plans to be able to do a focused inspection of Endeavour’s heat shield on Saturday. A final decision on whether the inspection is required or not is expected tomorrow.

Feustel and Chamitoff are scheduled to begin the first of the mission’s four spacewalks about 2:15 a.m. on Friday. The spacewalkers and Mike Fincke, their intravehicular officer who will help coach them through their activities, spent about an hour Thursday morning preparing tools for the spacewalk.

Late in their work day all Endeavour crew members spent about an hour reviewing spacewalk procedures. Feustel and Chamitoff will sleep in the Quest airlock overnight. The reduced pressure during that “campout” will lower the nitrogen content of their blood, reducing the possibility of the bends.

Tasks include retrieval of long-duration materials exposure experiments and installation of another, installation of a light on one of the station’s rail line handcarts, preparation for adding ammonia to a cooling loop and installation of an antenna.

About 5:10 a.m., Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly, Johnson, and Mission Specialists Feustel, Fincke and station Flight Engineer Ron Garan responded to questions relayed up from moderator Miles O‚Brien for Google and the PBS NewsHour. About 9 a.m. Kelly and station Flight Engineer Cady Coleman talked with representatives of National Public Radio, Associated Press, Reuters and Fox News.

The next status report will be issued after crew wakeup or earlier if warranted.

SpaceRef staff editor.