HOUSTON – STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly will guide Endeavour through its final rendezvous to a docking with the International Space Station today, and after being welcomed by their space station colleagues the combined crew will install a spare parts platform on the station’s backbone.
Endeavour’s crew was awakened at 9:56 p.m. CDT to the sounds of “Drops of Jupiter,” a song by the band Train played for Pilot Greg Johnson, who will assist Kelly with the rendezvous and docking.
The Endeavour crew – which includes Mission Specialists Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel, Mike Fincke and Roberto Vittori – spent the previous day checking out instruments they’ll use for the rendezvous, installing a centerline camera that will be used by Kelly for final targeting of the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 docking port, and extending the shuttle’s shock-absorbing Orbiter Docking System. The crew also conducted two maneuvering system burns to refine Endeavour’s approach to the station.
Rendezvous operations will resume at 11:36 p.m. today, with the start of the final phase of the rendezvous beginning at 2:37 a.m. Wednesday when the terminal initiation burn is performed.
Kelly will guide Endeavour through a slow back-flip at a distance of 600 feet from the station before making his final approach, and Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Cady Coleman will snap about 500 photos of the shuttle’s thermal protection tiles before it flies ahead of the station and backs into the docking port.
Docking is scheduled for 5:16 a.m., and after a solid linkage is established and pressures are equalized, the two crews will open hatches at 7:36 a.m. and join forces for the extensive robotic activities and four spacewalks of the mission.
The first robotic activity will be a handoff of Express Logistics Carrier 3, which was grappled by the shuttle’s robotic arm on Tuesday, to the station’s robotic arm. ELC3 then will be installed on the port side of the station’s truss structure. On the following day, the astronauts will install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the opposite side of the station’s truss structure.
Mission Specialists Fincke and Feustel will transfer space suits that will be used for the spacewalks to the station’s Quest airlock. The first spacewalk is scheduled for Friday.
Expedition 27’s Ron Garan is adjusting his sleep shift to match that of the shuttle crew, as Kondratyev, Coleman and Nespoli share time supporting the shuttle mission activities and getting ready to undock and return home to Earth on May 23. Before departing, Kondratyev will hand over command of the station to Andrey Borisenko, who will remain on the station with Alexander Samokutyaev and Garan as a trio until the remainder of the Expedition 28 crew arrives June 9.