Endeavour Shuttle Crew Eager for Launch Test Run

Endeavour Shuttle Crew Eager for Launch Test Run
The shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 crew poses for a group portrait at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after arriving for launch rehearsal activities. From left are mission specialists Shane Kimbrough and Steve Bowen, pilot Eric Boe, commander Chris Ferguson, and mission specialists Donald Pettit, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Sandra Magnus. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.)

Endeavour's sevencrewmembers jetted into Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, less than three weeksbefore their planned Nov. 14 liftoff to the International Space Station.

The crew's three days oftraining culminate Wednesday in a launch countdown rehearsal, strappedinto the shuttle in orange launch-and-entry spacesuits.

"We're glad to behere," said Chris Ferguson, the mission's commander.

Ferguson's crew stood athis side in blue flight suits: Pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists SteveBowen, Shane Kimbrough, Sandra Magnus, Donald Pettit and HeidemarieStefanyshyn-Piper.

Boe, Bowen and Kimbroughare rookie space flyers, while the others have flown one mission. Pettit spentmore than 160 days in space as a member of the station's Expedition 6 crew in2002-03.

The astronauts arrived fromHouston by 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT) in five T-38 training jets. The flightshelp some astronauts maintain pilot certifications and test crewmembers' teamworkunder real flight conditions.

Ferguson and Boeimmediately began practicing landings in Gulfstream jets called ShuttleTraining Aircraft, whose controls have been modified to simulate the shuttle'shandling on sharply angled descents.

Today, the crew will learnto drive an M113 tank they would ride to safety if an emergency forced them toflee the launch pad.

In a brief address toassembled news media, Ferguson outlined the 15-day mission's topthree goals.

First, he said, is todeliver Magnus to the station so she can join two Expedition 18 crewmatesferried to the station earlier this month by a Russian Soyuz vehicle.Expedition 17 astronaut Greg Chamitoff will ride home on Endeavour in herplace.

Second, under Pettit'sguidance, roughly 18,000 pounds of supplies and furnishings will be unloadedfrom the shuttle. That gear will allow the station to doubleits crews from three to six people.

And finally, during fourspacewalks, Boe, Bowen and Stefanyshyn-Piper will clean and lubricate rotatingjoints that allow the station's power-generating solar arrays to track the sun.

The crew arrived for itscountdown practice, known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, alittle more than a month after Atlantis astronauts went through the sameroutine.

But that crew saw itsmission to service the Hubble Space Telescope postponed until next year becauseof computer problems aboard the observatory.

Ferguson said Sunday'sflights to Cape Canaveral through cloudless skies were a pleasure, and he hopedit boded well for Endeavour's upcoming launch.

"We hope for weather likethis when we come out for the real thing," he said.

Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ©2008 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any waywithout the written consent of FLORIDATODAY.

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Contributing Writer

James Dean is a former space reporter at Florida Today, covering Florida's Space Coast through 2019. His writing for Space.com, from 2008 to 2011, mainly concerned NASA shuttle launches, but more recently at Florida Today he has covered SpaceX, NASA's Delta IV rocket, and the Israeli moon lander Beresheet.