Science and Technology News

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Astronauts Continue Prelaunch Training in Florida

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the four Atlantis astronauts are training at Launch Pad 39A this morning as they practice emergency escape procedures and inspect the payloads inside Atlantis' cargo bay. Later they'll receive operations and payload briefings inside Kennedy's Launch Control Center.

Before beginning their training this morning, the crew members -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- answered questions from the news media during a live NASA TV broadcast from the launch pad.

Reflecting on the significance of this final space shuttle mission, Commander Ferguson said, "I don't think that the full magnitude of the moment will really hit us until the wheels have stopped on the runway. I'm not sure words will really be able to capture for the crew and for the entire shuttle workforce just how much the shuttle program has meant to us for the last 30 years."

Yesterday the Space Shuttle Program held its program-level Flight Readiness Review at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The team recommended a "go" to proceed to the agency-level review next Tuesday, with a targeted July 8 launch date for the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.

Technicians at the pad have completed their high-tech X-ray scans of the tops Atlantis' external fuel tank stringer support beams. They'll now scan the bottoms of those 21-foot long beams. Other technicians replaced the main fuel valve in space shuttle main engine No. 3 yesterday. Retesting of the valve is up next.

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