The space shuttle Atlantis crew received a special wakeup call today to kick off Flight Day 6 of the STS-135 mission.
"Good morning, Atlantis, this is Elton John," the British singer said in a pre-recorded message. "We wish you much success on your mission. A huge thank you to all the men and women at NASA who worked on the shuttle for the last three decades."
The message followed the day's wakeup song, John's "Rocket Man," which was played at 1:29 a.m. It was not the first time the song has been played in space — "Rocket Man" has awakened four shuttle crew's in the space shuttle program's 30-year history, and it was one of NASA's top 40 wakeup call songs listed for voter selection during a contest to celebrate space shuttles Discovery and Endeavour's last missions. In that contest, it earned nearly 5,000 votes from the public.
With the mission's one spacewalk successfully behind them, Atlantis' astronauts turn their focus today to unpacking the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module.
The crew began the day 26 percent through the combined 15,069 pounds of cargo to transfer in or out of Raffaello — 9,403 pounds that launched on Atlantis and 5,666 pounds that it will bring home when it lands.
Each day that the final space shuttle mission is in flight, collectSPACE plans to highlight milestones and events from the space shuttle's history that also occurred on the same day over the past three decades. "Today in Space Shuttle History" will also note "lasts" being set by the STS-135 mission.
STS-135 Flight Day 6, July 13
1950 Three-time space shuttle mission specialist George "Pinky" Nelson is born. Nelson flew on Challenger's STS-41C mission in 1984, STS-61C aboard Columbia in 1986 and the "return to flight" mission STS-26, on Discovery in 1988.
1995 Space shuttle Discovery launches the STS-70 mission to deploy the 7th Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The mission was originally set to launch a month earlier but was delayed after woodpeckers poked dozens of holes in the insulating foam covering Discovery's external fuel tank.
July 13, 1995: Woodpeckers' holes in STS-70's external tank and the spoof patch they inspired.
The STS-135 and Expedition 28 crew members spent much of Flight Day 6 moving equipment and supplies from the Raffaello logistics module to the International Space Station.
They also took time for maintenance work, servicing station's U.S. toilet and restarting the urine recycling system after standing down a day to let a strong odor dissipate.
"That's the great thing about spaceflight," observed flight engineer Mike Fossum, "one day, you're doing the most outrageous thing humans have ever done... spacewalking. The next day, you're fixing toilets and packing boxes."
Space station flight director Chris Edelen said the astronauts are about 50 percent complete with work unloading Raffaello and re-packing it with no longer needed equipment and trash.
"The crew is now about halfway complete unloading the Raffaello multi- purpose logistics module, moving that cargo out of the module and into the space station and bringing back the spare parts, the trash and other various pieces of equipment that will be coming back to Earth," Edelen told reporters Wednesday.
Among the equipment returning on board Raffaello to Earth is the Interim Resistive Exercise Device (IRED), which has since been replaced by the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED).
In addition to their cargo transfer work, the astronauts took time to talk with reporters from WBNG-TV and WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York, and KGO-TV of San Francisco.
Before going to sleep at 4:29 p.m. CDT, Atlantis' crew paid tribute to the thousands of men and women who have powered NASA's space shuttle program for more than thirty years.