Mr. Fix-It Returns From Space

Space shuttle Discovery has left the international space station.

The shuttle undocked from the orbiting outpost Wednesday after eight days.

During the mission, the crews successfully boosted electrical power and science research at the station by installing solar wings.

Discovery will make a victory lap around the space station, primarily to take pictures of the complex with its new set of wings. Mission Control and the rest of the world will have to wait a little longer, though, to see how it looks because there won't be television availability.

The astronauts also got a urine-to-drinking water machine working properly and will bring back five months of science experiments.

Discovery and its crew of seven, including Joseph Acaba -- who grew up in Anaheim -- are due back Saturday. The mission included a frustrating spacewalk for Acaba and astornaut Richard Arnold.

The spacewalk was Acaba's first.

They had no luck trying to free up a jammed equipment storage shelf at the international space station.

The former schoolteachers were able to loosen a pin that was accidentally inserted upside down on the platform during Saturday's spacewalk. But the shelf mechanism wouldn't extend into the proper position.

Similar shelving is on the opposite side of the framework and also needs to be pulled out. But Mission Control told the spacewalkers to skip that because of all the trouble with the first platform.

Acaba and Swanson spent six-and-a-half hours outside the Space Station Saturday and installed a truss to support the solar array that powers the orbiting lab some 240 miles from Earth.
Discovery's thrusters were fired up Sunday to move it and the space station into a slightly lower orbit to reduce the chances of colliding with a 4-inch piece of debris from a dead Chinese satellite. It's the third time in recent weeks that the space station has had to deal with space junk.
Acaba, 41, was born in Inglewood and grew up in Anaheim, where his parents live. He has said that his interest in becoming an astronaut was spurred by his father and grandfather, who would show films of the Apollo missions, and by reading science fiction books.

After graduating from Anaheim's Esperanza High School in 1985, Acaba received a bachelor's degree in geology from UC Santa Barbara in 1990 and a master's degree in geology from the University of Arizona in 1992.

He worked as a hydro-geologist in Los Angeles, spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic; served as the island manager of the Caribbean Marine Research Center in the Bahamas; worked as shoreline revegetation coordinator in Vero Beach, Fla.; and taught at Melbourne (Fla.) High School and Dunnellon (Fla.) Middle School.
He also spent six years as a sergeant in the Marine Corps reserves.

When NASA selected Acaba for space training in 2004, he became the first astronaut of Puerto Rican descent.
Acaba and Arnold started an educational Web site, complete with activity guides for teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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