Seven astronauts, including teacher-turned-spaceflyer Barbara Morgan, are taking a close look at NASA's shuttle Endeavour as they train for an August launch towards the International Space Station (ISS).
"This is the first time that all of us are together with Endeavour on the pad, so we really look forward to some good training today," Endeavour's STS-118 mission commander Scott Kelly told reporters Wednesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. "We're looking forward to flying this vehicle in a few weeks."
Kelly, Morgan and their STS-118 crewmates are slated to launch aboard Endeavour on Aug. 7 from KSC's Launch Pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They are currently undergoing several days of final training to rehearse launch day activities, review mission and cargo plans, and practice emergency escape procedures.
"We've been working really long and hard," said Morgan of her crew's training. "We're really excited and we look forward to a great flight."
Morgan, an Idaho schoolteacher, has waited for more than two decades for the upcoming spaceflight. She was first chosen in 1985 as a backup flyer for New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe during NASA's Teacher in Space program. McAuliffe and six NASA astronauts died during NASA's 1986 Challenger accident.
"I've definitely thought about Christa and the whole Challenger crew," Morgan said. "Those folks are with us this year and they've been with us every single day of training."
Endeavour's planned 11-day mission will deliver cargo, spare parts and a new piece of the space station's starboard truss framework, mission managers have said. The mission could be extended by three days depending on the success of a new system designed to allow Endeavour to draw power from the ISS, they added.
In addition to Kelly and Morgan, Endeavour is slated to carry shuttle pilot Charles Hobaugh and STS-118 mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Alvin Drew and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams into orbit next month.
"I think the best part so far, besides all the camaraderie that we've experienced being so close to launch, is the drive we had yesterday in the tank," said Caldwell, referring to NASA's M-113 armored personnel carrier designed to carry astronauts away from the launch pad in an emergency. "I don't think anything can beat that so far."
- NASA's STS-118: Teaching the Future Through ISS Assembly
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with NASA's STS-117
- Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage