The Discovery astronauts used electronic bypass surgery to revive three military experiments Saturday, wielding a Swiss army knife to cut cables and route data past broken tape recorders for relay to Earth by satellite.
With the primary objectives of the Strategic Defense Initiative mission already behind them, the successful repair job was icing on the cake for Discovery's hard-working astronauts, who planned to collect as much data as possible before re-entry and landing Monday morning in California.Even though the three instruments brought back to life Saturday involved secondary experiments not directly related to "Star Wars" research, the astronauts were elated with their success.
"It looks like we're getting all of the data here on the ground," astronaut Jan Davis radioed the crew from Houston after the two-hour operation was complete.
"Well that's great! So we're getting everything that would have gone onto the tape recorders, is that right?" asked astronauts Charles Lacy Veach.
"That's correct," Davis replied.
"Boy, that is outstanding," Veach said.
Veach, 46, and his six crewmates planned to operate the experiments for at least 24 hours before packing up for an 11:50 a.m. PDT landing Monday at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Despite the late start Saturday, two of the revived experiments, built to study ultraviolet radiation and space-borne particles, were expected to achieve 100 percent of their objectives. The third, a novel X-ray sensor, was expected to accomplish at least 50 percent of its planned observations.
Discovery, carrying a $260 million battery of experiments, was launched last Sunday to study spectacular shuttle rocket firings, Earth's atmosphere, the aurora and other phenomena to help Strategic Defense Initiative scientists learn more about spotting enemy missiles in space.