HOUSTON -- Withless than a month remaining before their planned launch into orbit, seven astronauts?includingteacher-turned spaceflyer Barbara Morgan?are eager to reach space aboard NASA?sshuttle Endeavour.
The shuttle?sSTS-118astronaut crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Scott Kelly, is due torocket towards the International Space Station (ISS) on Aug. 7 to continueconstruction of the half-finished orbital laboratory.
?It?s areally great day for us to be a little less than a month from flight,? Kellysaid during a Wednesday briefing here at NASA?s Johnson Space Center. ?All ofus have been working a very long time to get to this point, some of us longerthan others.?
Morgan, infact, has beenworking for 22 years to reach space after NASA first selected her to serveas backup to Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe and six astronautsdied during the 1986Challenger accident, after which Morgan eventually returned to teachingelementary school in McCall, Idaho before returning to NASA in 1998 as thefirst educator astronaut.
?That?swhat defines teachers is perseverance and patience, and so I?m just doing thejob of a teacher,? Morgan told reporters Wednesday. ?I believe in my heart thatspace exploration is key for all of us, especially for our young people to keeptheir futures open-ended.?
Joining Kellyand Morgan aboard Endeavour during their potentially 14-day mission will beshuttle pilot Charles Hobaugh and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, TracyCaldwell, Alvin Drew and David Williams, who represents the Canadian SpaceAgency.
Theastronauts are set to launch aboard a refitted Endeavour, which NASA last flewin 2002 before pulling the orbiter aside for a scheduled overhaul. The 100-tonorbiter and its external fuel tank and rocket boosters reached the launch padearlier today.
?Endeavouris far and away probably more prepared that any shuttle that I?ve seen in myyears of being at NASA,? said Hobaugh, a veteran shuttle flyer who first joinedthe U.S. astronaut corps in 1996.
Drew, afirst-time flyer, joined Endeavour?s STS-118 crew in April to replace ClaytonAnderson after the latter astronaut launched on a NASA?s June shuttle missionto join the station?s Expedition 15 crew as a flight engineer.
?My initialreaction was just plain shock. I?d never heard of anybody being selected for amission about three and a half months out prior to launch,? said Drew, who wastraining to be a spacecraft communicator before his reassignment. ?Afterthat, it was just time to get busy, and there?s a lot to do.?
Endeavour?sfive-man, two-woman astronaut crew will install the $11 million Starboard 5(S5) spacer truss to the starboard edge of the ISS. The spaceflyers are alsoslated to deliver about 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of cargo, replace afaulty ISS gyroscope, stage up to four spacewalks and perform several activitiesto bolster space education.
The successof a new system designed to allow Endeavour to conserve its own power stores bysiphoning supplies from the ISS will determine whether the shuttle mission isextended three days longer than its 11-day baseline, NASA has said.
Endeavour?sAugust STS-118 flight will mark the second of up to four NASA shuttle missionsplanned for this year. It comes on the heels of last month?s STS-117 mission tothe station and will carry the second round of shuttle astronaut visitors to the orbitallaboratory?s Expedition 15 crew.
?We?relooking forward to you guys being in our home,? Anderson told shuttleastronauts from orbit earlier Wednesday during a video broadcast.
- 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