Christer Fuglesang's newsletter: ‘Thank you’ ceremonies
Houston, 2 August 2009 Hello my friends! We should have flown to the Cape this afternoon to be there for the roll-out of Discovery on the ‘stack’ on Sunday night, but they had a minor problem and the roll-out was delayed one day. A pity, as it would have been fun to be there to see the roll-out.
This Tuesday we have one of the very last exercises in the Space Shuttle simulator, so we can't be in Florida then. But if it's delayed for one more day, we might be able to be there. The plan (that changes almost daily, as I've said) is that the TCDT (Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test) will be done Wednesday to Friday (5–7 Aug) and we're scheduled to be at the Cape then.
Now I don't know if they'll manage to get the Shuttle ready for us on the launch pad when the roll-out is delayed one day, and they definitely won't if it's delayed by two days, but then we can watch the roll-out instead! Every cloud has a silver lining.
The launch date is still being discussed and it will probably be the 25th or possibly the 24th, or maybe there is still a possibility of the 23rd as the new target date. But there is still nothing official. There were heated discussions last week about how wide our launch window can be. The ISS programme emphasises the importance of getting the unmanned Japanese cargo craft HTV up and there apparently needs to be quite a few days between us leaving the ISS and the HTV docking. Due to a deal with Japanese fishermen the HTV can only launch in September. After that it will have to wait until next year.
The last I heard was that in any case we can launch as late as August 30 without our mission being shortened in any way. We could also launch on the 31st, but then we'll probably lose the last spacewalk. There was a rumour that the head of the ISS, Mike Suffredini, was willing to shorten our journey by three days and abandon ALL of the spacewalks, but it doesn't seem to be that bad.
The quick trip to the Cape last week went well and the best part was that we could visit the assembly building and see our vehicle. It looked good! It's soon ready – and so are we.
As we approach the end of all the training we also have ‘thank you’ ceremonies with different groups that have helped us during the preparations. A traditional cake ceremony is usually held in the so-called Building 5, where the advanced simulators for both the Space Shuttle and the Space Station are located. A lady had made amazing cakes, with among other things our emblem on top. We were allowed the honour of slicing the cakes and serving everyone who has been involved in our training. This was last Wednesday, just before we left for Florida. Two days later we had our last spacewalk exercise in the NBL pool and after that it was time for a new cake ceremony to celebrate this.
The pool exercise went well by the way, despite the fact that we've now changed parts of EVA-3 and for the first (and only) time tried the new task we've taken over from STS-127. It involves a platform called PAS (Payload Attachment System) out on truss segment S3 and will house an experiment that STS-129 will be bringing up and that has to be deployed.
It has such a high priority that it's now the first task we'll do during EVA-3. After that we'll replace the broken gyro (RGA) and the power control module (RCPM) and running the cables from S0 to Node 1 will now only be our third task. The task of mounting the GPS antennae that I've been training for may be dropped altogether. For the present we have it as a so-called ‘get-ahead’, that’s a task that we can only do if there is time left at the end.