Having brought a lifeless Navy communications satellite back from the dead, the crew of the space shuttle Discovery today began to clean up its cabin to get ready to land at sunrise Tuesday morning at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Discovery's five-man crew used most of Labor Day to take a well-earned rest and sightseeing tour in Earth orbit.
Most of the day, the astronauts did little more than take photographs of the last hours of Hurricane Elena, a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean named Skip, a tropical storm off Baja California named Pauline and an unnamed volcano erupting on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
Commander Joe H. Engle took time out to raise Discovery's orbit by eight miles to increase the time it takes for the shuttle to circle the Earth. By doing this, Engle delayed Discovery's landing time by 16 minutes, which would put the spaceliner on the ground in the Mojave Desert at 9:15 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.
"This means we'll be landing at nine minutes before sunrise, which is daylight as far as we're concerned," flight director Gary Coen said at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "That means we can use any runway we want at Edwards to limit crosswinds if we so choose."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy communications satellite the crew salvaged over the weekend responded repeatedly to radio commands sent up from Guam. Though it will be two months before the satellite's engine can be fired to raise it to an orbit where it can be used for communications, the 15,000-pound satellite gave every sign of being a healthy, working machine for the first time in more than four months.
Twice today, the satellite was instructed to fire its tiny jet engines to spin itself to stabilize its orbit. Each time, the satellite responded, first by spinning itself to six revolutions a minute and then later to 21 revolutions a minute.
"It really looks good and we're still cookin' along," astronaut Robert C. Springer told the crew from Mission Control Center.
Engle replied, "That's great news."
Flight directors had feared that the freezing temperatures of space might have permanently damaged the satellite's fuel lines and tanks. But radio messages returning from the satellite indicated that no lines had broken nor any fuel frozen in its pipes.
Astronauts James van Hoften, William F. Fisher and John M. Lounge continued to draw warm praise from the men in Mission Control for their efforts in the salvage mission.
"Those were certainly two of the most interesting and exciting spacewalks we've ever done," read a message sent to the crew this morning. "We sure had the right people on the job and everyone involved appreciates your talents . . . ."