NASA Aims to Launch Shuttle Endeavour Two Days Early

NASA Aims to Launch Shuttle Endeavour Two Days Early
The seven-astronaut crew of NASA's STs-118 are pictured from the left are astronauts Richard Mastracchio, mission specialist; Barbara Morgan, a mission specialist and NASA's first educator astronaut; Charles Hobaugh, pilot; Scott Kelly, commander; Tracy Caldwell, Canadian Space Agency's Dafydd Williams, and Alvin Drew Jr., all mission specialists. The crewmembers are attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits.
(Image: © NASA.)

CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA aimsto move up the planned launch of shuttle Endeavour to Aug. 7 while Atlantis isheaded for a weekend return to Kennedy Space Center.

Now scheduled for Aug. 9,the launch of Endeavour on an International Space Station construction missionwill mark the orbiter's firstflight since 2002. Shuttle managers are expected to move the target dateduring a meeting Thursday.

NASA plans to moveEndeavour from its processing hangar to the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Buildingnext Monday, three days early. The fully assembled shuttle is set to be rolledout to Pad 39A about July 9.

Atlantis, meanwhile,appears to have come through its stationassembly mission relatively unscathed. Inspectors found just 10 heat-shieldtiles with gouges greater than an inch long.

A thermal blanket repairedduring a spacewalk peeled back about an inch during re-entry, but no damage wasdone to the graphite epoxy rocket pod that it protects, NASA said.

Technicians this week arepreparing Atlantis for a ferry flight back to KSC. The orbiter landedFriday at Edwards Air Force Base in California because of bad weather atthe Cape. Atlantis will be bolted to the top of a modified 747 jet, which is toleave Edwards on Friday. The trip probably will take at least two days.

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