Learn about the tasks of the Discovery space shuttle. Also learn about the return of the first astronauts living in the international space station.
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Learn About the Discovery's Space Mission Part 3/3 Jim Whetherbee then completed the second round of shuttle jet firings to boost the altitude of the station which suffers a natural decay in its orbit through the upper reaches of the earth’s atmosphere. It is expected that the further re-boost effort will be required before Discovery completes this mission. The Expedition 1 crew, Shepherd, Gadzinko, and Krikalev now turned their attention to exercise in order to prepare their bodies for their return to gravity after four and a half months in space. Meanwhile, the Expedition 2 crew prepared Leonardo, the so-called moving van in space for de-mating from the station’s unity node and then rebirthing back in Discovery’s pilot bay. Jim Whetherbee completed the third round of shuttle jet firings that boosted the altitude of the orbiting complex leading the ISS orbiting some seven miles higher than it was when the shuttle arrived more than week ago. Day 11 saw Whetherbee and Kelly on board Discovery carry out some trouble shooting. Two of four primary computers were turned on quickly at the request of mission control as part of the general power-up to increase the heat generated by shuttle electronics. The shuttle’s cooling system had gotten too cold causing ice to form in the water line and controllers needed more electronics powered on to warm up the cooling system. The procedure worked and the cooling system quickly returned to normal. Final checks were carried out in the Destiny Laboratory and the MPLM. After the last of the items were returned to earth had been loaded and Andy Thomas had turned out the lights, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd and Expedition 2 Flight Engineer Jim Voss closed up the Leonardo module. Over the next few hours, the crew removed any equipment left in the vestibule between Leonardo and Unity and closed Unity’s hatch. While Thomas powered up the robotic arm, they began to depressurize the small space between the two modules. When ready, Thomas carefully moved the arm of the grapple fixture that attached Leonardo to the ISS, activated its snares and secured the arm to the MPLM. After the vestibule between Leonardo and Unity was fully depressurized and a series of checks revealed that both modules were tightly sealed, Paul Richards remotely commanded the Unity birthing system to release its grip on the MPLM and Thomas, very slowly backed Leonardo away from ISS. Over the course of more than an hour, Thomas maneuvered the module away from the space station, positioned it over the payload bay, and carefully loaded into its berth. The shuttle crews wrapped up the day by checking out the rendezvous skills they would use on flight day 12 after they close the hatch on the Expedition 2 crew, unlocked the International Space Station, and commenced the home stretch of their mission. On the 12th day of mission STS-102, the tem astronauts were ready to make history by undocking the two ships and completing the first exchange of resident crews on the new outpost in orbit. The first order of business, all hands present and correct in the Destiny Laboratory for the ceremony to officially transfer the command of the station from American astronaut Bill Shepherd to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachov, a ceremony that followed ancient naval traditions. Two hours later, Usachov and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms waved goodbye and closed the forward hatch on pressurized mating adaptor number two. Expedition 2 to the International Space Station was officially underway. At 10:32 in the evening, Central American time, the hooks and latches in Discovery’s orbited docking system were released and springs in the mechanism pushed the two ships apart. Pilot Jim Kelly flew Discovery to a distance of some 400 feet in front of the station then started a slow circle around the ISS so his crewmates could document the condition of its exterior. Kelly flew one in a quarter lap of the station before executing a final separation mane