CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? Thanks to a bout of dry air, NASA's weather forecast for aWednesday launch of the space shuttle Endeavour and its STS-118 crew lookspromising.
"Theweather pattern is pretty friendly for this time of year, given that it's summertime," said Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer here at Kennedy SpaceCenter (KSC). Winters said there's only a 10 percent chance of delaying fuelingof the spacecraft due to the threat of isolated showers, and a 30 percentchance of launch delay from potential thunderstorms.
Shouldmission managers delay the launch, Winters said the 30 percent chance of delaywill remain the same throughout the week and actually drop to 20 percent onFriday.
"Itlooks like we're going to get a break from [thunderstorms] for launch day,"Winters said. NASA hopes to rocket the STS-118crew towards the InternationalSpace Station (ISS) on 6:36 p.m. EDT (2236 GMT) from Pad 39A.
As thecountdown clock ticks down, Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters, a Johnson Space Centerspokesperson here at KSC, said the astronauts are continuing with their final preparations for launch day.
Thecrew is squeezing in some final training flights, receiving medical checks andgoing over the mission objectives and Endeavour's controls, she said.
Cloutier-Lemasterssaid crew commander Scott Kelly and pilot Charlie Hobaughflew a shuttle training aircraft today. The twoveteran astronauts also plan to jet around in T-38 supersonic jet trainersto prepare ready for the speedy ascent into space.
"We'remaking sure everything is going well their last few days here," Cloutier-Lemasters said.
Led by ScottKelly, the seven-person crew will dock with the ISS two days after launch andcontinue their 11-day mission, which is likely to be extended to 14 days thanksto a small power-transferring system.
Officials saidthe mission will be a mixed bag of tasks, but its ultimate goal is to continuewith assembly of the space laboratory as well prepare it for futureconstruction.
"There'sa little bit of assembly, there's some re-supply, there's some repairs andthere are some high-visibility education and public affairs events," saidMatt Abbott, NASA's lead STS-118 shuttle flight director, of the mission lastmonth. "It's a little bit of everything."
BarbaraMorgan, NASA's teacher-turned-astronaut,will be part of Endeavour's crew delivering a 4,010-pound (1,820-kilogram) spacer for the Starboard-5 (S5) truss segment of the ISS. The piece willadd another element to the space station's growing backbone and make way forits future expansion, but the shuttle's biggest haul will be a 7,000-pound(3175-kilogram) external stowage platform for the ISS.
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