Endeavour crew rests for trip home

March 23, 2008 9:18:45 PM PDT
Astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-station complex relaxed Sunday after an intense week and a half of work that included five spacewalks and the installation of a giant robot and a Japanese storage compartment. Crew members transferred supplies and equipment between the station to the shuttle and completed other housekeeping tasks to get ready for Endeavour's departure on Monday. All ten astronauts also planned to participate in a news conference later Sunday.

The orbiting team also spent the day catching up on e-mail, chatting with family through an Internet phone line and enjoying the view.

Flight controllers gently suggested the astronauts might want to postpone some Easter traditions, however.

"Egg tosses might not work as well for you in microgravity - especially dehydrated scrambled eggs," they joked to the astronauts.

The shuttle arrived at the orbiting complex March 12 and the astronauts got right to work installing the storage module for the Japanese Kibo lab. The shuttle Discovery is set to deliver the enormous lab in May.

Astronauts devoted most of the mission's first three spacewalks to assembling the robot, named Dextre. The fourth spacewalk focused on testing a method for repairing damaged shuttle thermal tiles, while the fifth involved stowing an inspection boom on the station.

Dextre, a Canadian Space Agency contribution that cost more than $200 million, could eventually take over some of the chores currently handled by spacewalkers. Its designers envision the robot one day replacing batteries and other space station parts - it can lift as much as 1,300 pounds - and performing fine precision tasks like handling bolts.

Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the space station Monday night and land back at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday night. The shuttle's thermal shield has been cleared for landing.

The shuttle will ferry home French astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who arrived at the space station in early February. Astronaut Garrett Reisman flew to the station aboard Endeavour and is set to remain there until June.


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