The shuttle booster rockets that lifted Discovery into orbit - manufactured in Box Elder County's Morton Thiokol plant - were taken from the ocean and placed Friday in a hangar for disassembly and examination to make sure everything worked as perfectly as it looked.
Recovery ships retrieved the boosters, which landed eight miles apart in the Atlantic Ocean, after Thursday's launch. Divers from United States Boosters Inc., a division of United Technologies, checked the rockets for any potential fuels remaining before hooking them to the ships.The two ships sailed to Port Canaveral, through locks connecting the Atlantic with the Banana River and to Hangar AF on Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.
John Thomas, in charge of NASA's booster redesign program, stood among the tourists and the sea gulls while the ships entered Port Canaveral Harbor. "Everything looks absolutely clean," Thomas said after a quick look at the rockets.
Workers laid the rockets alongside the ships to get through the locks.
"The joints, the field joints, everything on the outside looks good," said John Taylor, spokesman for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, which oversees propulsion systems for the space shuttle.
The booster nozzle had 100 radial bolts added during the redesign project. "That joint looks excellent," Taylor said. "From everything we can see from the outside, it looks great."
Monday, when Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, workers will complete removing any remaining explosive chemicals left in the rockets.
"Then it takes more than three days to strip the thermal protection materials on the joint and the motor," said Morton Thiokol spokesman Rocky Raab.
Workers will need three more days "to remove the removables" on the rockets, Raab said Friday. "The first joint should be removed 14 days after today.
"The booster parts go to United States Boosters Inc. All the motor parts go back to Utah and major segments back there," Raab said.
Examination of the boosters will take about six weeks and will be completed just in time for the shuttle Atlantis' launch.
While the launch was delayed from 9:59 a.m. EDT Thursday to 11:37 a.m., the booster recovery was eight hours ahead of schedule.
The astronauts were on schedule Friday, arranging the 11 experiments on board the shuttle. The crew was awakened at 5:30 a.m. EDT by a tape from comedian Robin Williams made especially for the Discovery astronauts. The crew listened to Marvin Gaye's version of "Heard it Through the Grapevine."
Any dancing the crew may have done would more likely be sweaty than dirty because of a problem in the shuttle's cooling system.