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Hubble Astronauts Behind in Training for Oct. 10 Launch

Hubble Astronauts Behind in Training for Oct. 10 Launch
Space shuttle Atlantis commander Scott Altman, left, answers a question at a news conference, along with crew members, from second left, pilot Gregory C. Johnson and mission specialists, Michael Good, Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino and Andrew Feustel, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008.
(Image: © AP Photo/John Raoux)

The sevenNASA astronauts preparing to rocket toward the Hubble Space Telescope nextmonth aboard the shuttle Atlantis are a week behind in their training due tothe recent Hurricane Ike, making it difficult to keep to the planned Oct. 10launch, the mission?s commander said Tuesday.

Shuttlecommander Scott Altman told reporters at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in CapeCanaveral, Fla., that the effects of Ike at the agency?s astronaut trainingfacility in Houston, Texas, have kept his crewmates from several vital trainingruns for their missionto overhaul Hubble.

?We didmiss seven days of training,? Altman said from at Atlantis? seaside Pad 39A launchsite in a televised update. ?It?s hard to slice that out and stay on track, soyou come to the question of either slipping the launch or cutting out eventsand we?re still working with the whole system to balance that.?

NASAofficials have said they are still maintaining the Oct. 10 launch target, withtop mission managers expected to review the impact from Ike and payloaddelivery delays before setting an official launch target during a two-day FlightReadiness Review next week.

NASA?s astronauttraining center and Mission Control rooms for the shuttle and International SpaceStation are based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The center reopened Monday,11 days after NASA evacuated the facility on Sept. 11 ahead of Ike?s arrival. Thestorm caused minor roof damage to several JSC buildings and delayed the arrivalof a Russian cargo ship at the International Space Station.

But the closurealso kept Altman?s STS-125 mission crew from a pair of intensesimulations and two spacewalk rehearsals in a massive pool at NASA?s NeutralBuoyancy Laboratory, where Hubble servicing astronauts have been practicingsome tricky repair tasks to revive two of space telescope?s ailing instrumentsthat were never designed to be fixed in orbit.

?I?m hopingwe can get to make this up, I?d like another shot at them,? said Atlantisspacewalker Mike Massimino, who is making his second trip to Hubble on STS-125.

JoiningAltman and Massimino on the Hubble mission are Atlantis pilot Greg C. Johnson,mission specialist Megan McArthur and spacewalkers John Grunsfeld, Mike Goodand Andrew Feustel. They are currently at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center forseveral days of preflight training, culminating in a launch day dress rehearsaland emergency escape drill on Wednesday.

The astronautsplan to perform fiveback-to-back spacewalks during their planned 11-day mission to upgrade andrepair Hubble for the fifth and final time. The mission is expected to extendHubble?s orbital life through 2013.

?In theend, I think we?re going to try to do most of our training and that may mean abit of a slip,? Altman said. ?But it?s still being evaluated and we?re standingby.?

Altman saidhe and his crew flew over Atlantis and its nearby sister ship Endeavour perchedatop two different launch pads when they arrived at the Florida spaceportearlier this week.

Inan unprecedented move, NASA is readying Endeavour and a skeleton crew of fourastronauts to perform a rescue mission in the unlikely event that Atlantissuffers critical damage during the Hubble flight and is unable to return itscrew to Earth.

Astronautson recent shuttle flights to the International Space Station have had the optionof returning to that orbiting laboratory to await rescue, but Atlantis must flyhigher and in a different orbit to meet Hubble and would not have enough fuelto reach the station, mission managers have said. So the agency is holdingEndeavour in reserve as a rescue ship to fly soon after any emergency declaration,they added.

Shuttle astronautsand mission managers alike have stressed that the scenario is extremelyunlikely.

?I amconfident we?re not going to need it,? Altman said, but added that he wasstruck by the view of two shuttles atop their launch pads. ?It?s an amazingsight.?

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