Sunday, December 26, 1999 – 8:00 a.m. CDT

With their primary mission objectives successfully completed, Discovery’s astronauts today begin preparing their spacecraft for its scheduled return to Earth Monday, checking out the flight control system and reaction control jets that support re-entry.

The seven astronauts were awakened at 7:50 a.m. to the song “We’re So Good Together” by Reba McEntyre, played for Pilot Scott Kelly at the request of his wife.

This afternoon, Commander Curt Brown and Kelly will check out Discovery’s flight control systems and surfaces to support Monday’s planned return to the Kennedy Space Center. Later in the day, the astronauts will begin stowing the equipment they’ve used during the past week on orbit and start buttoning up Discovery’s on-orbit systems. The Ku-band antenna, which provides most of the capacity for data and television relay, will be stowed around 8:45 p.m. today.

As the STS-103 mission winds down, the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope slowly moves through its checkout sequence prior to resuming science operations. Discovery’s four space-walking astronauts spent 24 hours and 33 minutes upgrading and refurbishing the orbiting observatory, making it more capable than ever to renew its observations of the universe.

Hubble was released from the end of Discovery’s robot arm at 5:03 p.m. Christmas Day. Less than half an hour later, controllers at the Space Telescope Operations Control Center in Maryland reported that the telescope was in normal operating mode. Controllers will perform two weeks of testing before observations resume. At 8 a.m. today, Hubble was approximately 45 miles away from Discovery and separating at the rate of about five miles per 90-minute orbit.

Also on tap at 10:50 a.m. today is the crew in-flight press conference with media at NASA Centers in the U.S. and reporters at European Space Agency sites in Geneva and Paris.

The next status report will be issued at 8 p.m. Sunday or as events warrant.