DISCOVERY zooms after space station; round-the-world chase to end Sunday

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Space shuttle Discovery zoomed after the international space station on Saturday on its mission to drop off one crew and bring home another after a tiring five-month stay.

The two-day, round-and-round-the-world chase will end Sunday afternoon.

The space station's next commander began his day aboard Discovery listening to the late Gene Autry singing ``Back in the Saddle Again.''

``It's great to be back up here and thanks for the music,'' astronaut Frank Culbertson told Mission Control. ``Now I've got to translate 'Whoopee ki-yi-yay' to the Russians.''

Culbertson will move into the space station on Monday with two Russian cosmonauts and stay until December. This is his first space flight in eight years; he put his flying career on hold to work behind a desk as a space station manager.

The three will replace the two Americans and one Russian who have been living on space station Alpha since March. Saturday was their 156th day in space _ and a rough one.

Space station astronaut Susan Helms struggled with more computer problems, this time involving the networking link among the various machines.

``It's been a very frustrating morning,'' Helms called down. ``Things are changing up here almost by the 15 minutes.''

The problem was traced to a bad cable connection on the Russian side.

Most of the previous computer trouble was on the U.S. side of the space station. All three command-and-control computers failed back in April, disrupting station operations. The repairs have not always worked; one of the computers failed again just last week.

Discovery is carrying up a spare command-and-control computer, along with other gear and food and clothes for the new crew.

Culbertson's crew will be the third to live aboard the space station, occupied nonstop since November. The orbiting outpost has grow considerably since then. It now has five rooms, including a laboratory.

Mission Control took time Saturday to observe ``a momentous day ... the big four-oh birthday'' of shuttle pilot Rick Sturckow.

``We'd like all of you to wish him a happy birthday,'' Mission Control urged the shuttle crew.

Sturckow's quick thanks was so terse and businesslike that Mission Control burst into laughter.