HOUSTON – The final shuttle crew began their first full day in space with a chorus of well wishes from some of the many people who helped put them there.
“Good morning, Atlantis!” NASA employees said in a message recorded before launch. “The Marshall Space Flight Center hopes you enjoyed your ride to orbit. We wish you a successful mission and a safe return home.”
Marshall Space Flight Center, located in Huntsville, Ala., is responsible for the space shuttle’s propulsion system – the shuttle’s three main engines, the twin solid rocket boosters and the external tank.
The message was preceded by the mission’s first wake up song, Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” which was played for Pilot Doug Hurley. The wakeup call came at 2:59 a.m.
With that encouragement, space shuttle Atlantis’ crew – Hurley, Commander Chris Ferguson and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim – got to work on their flight day two activities. The main objective of the day will be to get a closer look at the shuttle’s heat shield to verify that it didn’t sustain any damage during Atlantis’ climb into orbit.
To do so, Ferguson, Hurley and Magnus will use the space shuttle’s robotic arm and 50-foot long boom to get a close up look at the shuttle’s wing leading edges and nose cap. A suite of cameras on the end of the boom will capture images of the reinforced carbon carbon that protects the shuttle from the hottest temperatures it experiences. Imagery experts on the ground will comb through the data to make sure that the heat shield is still in good shape.
The survey is scheduled to start at 7:19 a.m., and wrap up about six hours later.
Later in the day, Walheim will work with Hurley to check out the tools that will be used during Atlantis’ rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station on Sunday. Meanwhile, Ferguson and Magnus will install a camera in the window of the shuttle’s hatch for a view that will help them align Atlantis with the space station.