Shuttle Crew Arrives at NASA Spaceport for Training

Shuttle Crew Arrives at NASA Spaceport for Training
After their arrival at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility the STS-119 crew members head across the tarmac to greet the media for a question and answer session. Photo (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Standing on a platform 195feet up Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A today, Discovery's crew shouldenjoy spectacular views of the Space Coast.

But if a fire or otheremergency forced the seven astronauts from the shuttle's flight deck andmid-deck before a targetedFeb. 12 liftoff, they wouldn't pause to take in the scenery.

Instead, they wouldscramble into slide-wire baskets designed to whoosh them to the safety of aground bunker, a procedure they'll review today during the second of three daysof pre-launch training.

"This is very valuabletraining," mission commander Lee Archambault said Monday morning after thecrew jetted into the space center from Houston. "We've been in trainingfor almost a year, so we're very anxious to get going with the mission."

Archambault was joined bypilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Joseph Acaba, Richard Arnold, JohnPhillips, Steve Swanson and Koichi Wakata -- all wearing blue flight suits.

The year's first of sixplanned shuttle missions will deliverthe last two solar wings to the International Space Station, completing itspower supply.

On Monday, the crewpracticed driving the M-113 turret-less tank they would use to crash through aperimeter fence and flee the launch pad area, if time allowed during anemergency.

Archambault and Antonellialso practiced landing a jet modified to handle like an orbiter on descent.

The training culminatesWednesday with a countdown dress rehearsal that ends with an abort drillseconds before the simulated liftoff.

The astronauts don't expectto have time in their busy schedule to watch today'spresidential inauguration.

Responding to a reporter'squestion, Archambault said he hoped the Obama administration would stick withplans to return astronauts to the moon and Mars on a new spacecraft.

"We'd love very muchfor him to stay the course and press on with the Constellation program,"he said.

  • Video - Space Shuttle Bloopers!
  • Video - NASA's Constellation Journey Begins: Part 1, Part 2
  • Images - Stunning Night Launch for Shuttle Endeavour

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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, 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.