Discovery’s astronauts overcame a sticky valve in the electrical system and began restoring full power to the space shuttle today, dispelling any need to cut short the five-day mission, NASA said.
The shuttle started drawing fuel again from the hydrogen tank that had been closed because of the valve, said Al Pennington, a flight director.
“We’re repowering back up at this time,” he said. “It appears that the tank is back in operation, which means we’re back on a nominal time line.”
The valve, which started jamming shortly after the launch Monday, had forced the crew to dim lights and shut down unneeded computers to conserve power. The astronauts were in no danger, but officials said the problem could have forced the shuttle to return to Earth on Friday, one day early.
Despite a dim cabin and a careful use of electrical power, the astronauts kept to their schedule of conducting experiments and photographing environmentally damaged places on Earth during their second full morning in space.
They focused a powerful 70-millimeter camera on the Tanzanian plains in Africa and then looked for evidence of pollution near Zanzibar, where a coral reef is dying. Other targets included the scars from a recent fire in the Everglades and an erupting volcano in Guatemala.
While over Australia, then in darkness, Discovery commander Michael L. Coats turned Discovery to get TV views of what he called “spectacular thunderstorms.”
Coats focused a television camera on crew mates Dr. James M. Bagian and Robert C. Springer as they made a minor repair on an experiment and vacuumed away debris.
“Bob and I almost had a fight over the vacuum cleaner,” Bagian joked. “We are the prime operators of that instrument, and we wanted a chance to show off our prowess.”