Columbia's astronauts took time off Tuesday to relax and gaze at the world 174 miles below. "Enjoy," Mission Control told the crew as the space shuttle flew over the Pacific Ocean toward the southern California coast on the seventh day of their biomedical research mission.
"That sounds great to us," said astronaut Tamara Jernigan.
The astronauts spent much of the day doing minor repairs. They tracked down the source of the low temperature inside the Spacelab module _ a valve was in the wrong position _ and fixed a pin connector on a rotating dome needed for space motion sickness tests.
Jernigan also labeled white blood cells collected earlier from the astronauts and put them in a low-gravity centrifuge, and took more pictures of the 2,478 jellyfish aboard Columbia.
NASA purposely kept the work load light. Until Tuesday, the four medical specialists aboard barely had any time to rest, prompting commander Bryan O'Connor to complain that his crew needed a break.
Flight director Randy Stone said the crew already has collected so much medical data that anything obtained Tuesday "will be a bonus." Scientists expect the tests will improve their understanding about how the body adjusts to weightlessness.
Columbia is supposed to return to Earth on Friday morning.