The crew ofthe space shuttle Endeavour arrived at NASA?s Florida spaceport on Tuesday toprepare for a planned weekend blast off after nearly a month of delays.
Shuttlecommander Mark Polansky and his crew touched down at the Kennedy Space Centerin Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday afternoon under a cloudy sky as they gear upfor their thirdlaunch attempt in two months. Liftoff is set for 7:39 p.m. EDT (2339 GMT)on Saturday.
?I can tellyou that this crew and the entire operations team are both eager and ready to getto work,? Polansky said from the tarmac in a brief televised statement. ?Hopefullythe next time we talk to you will be from orbit.?
Endeavouris poised to launch on a 16-day construction marathon to the InternationalSpace Station. The shuttle?s six-man,one-woman crew plans to swap out one member of the station?s six-man crewand deliver the last piece of Japan?s massive Kibo laboratory at the orbitaloutpost. Five spacewalks and challenging robotic arm work using three differentspace cranes are also on tap.
Theupcoming flight is the first shuttle mission to the space station since theoutpost doubledits crew size to six people in late May. When the shuttle arrives, thestation?s population will surge to 13 people - the highest ever at the orbitinglab.
Endeavour's missionhas been delayed since mid-June, when a potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leakin a fuel tank vent line thwarted two consecutive launch attempts. Engineersreplaced a misaligned plate and seal on the tank and successfully checked therepairs duringa fueling test last week.
Polansky thankedthe hard-working NASA team that readied Endeavour for its launch attempt thisweekend after his crew arrived today.
A veteranspace commander, Polansky will make his third spaceflight while in charge ofEndeavour?s STS-127 mission. Shuttle pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialistsChris Cassidy, Tom Marshburn and Tim Kopra - all rookies making their firstflight - will also fly aboard Endeavour. Veteran spaceflyers Dave Wolf of NASAand Julie Payette of the Canadian Space Agency round out the crew.
Kopra willreplace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata as a member of the space station?screw. Wakata has lived aboard the station since March and is Japan?s firstlong-term resident of the orbiting lab.
The stationis currently home to two Russian cosmonauts and one astronaut each from the United States,Japan, Canada and Belgium. When Endeavour launches, it will be the first timetwo Canadians - Payette and space station flight engineer Robert Thirsk - willbe in space at the same time.
Over thenext few days, Endeavour astronauts will perform a series of final medical andspacesuit checks while Polansky and Hurley practice space shuttle landingsusing a modified NASA training aircraft.
NASA spokespersonMichael Curie said the astronauts will get their first official weatherforecast for the Saturday evening launch on Wednesday. NASA plans to begincounting down toward the weekend liftoff late Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. EDT (0200July 9 GMT), mission managers have said.
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