Monday, May 11, 2009

Live at KSC: Final Inspection in Progress

The seven-person Final Inspection Team is taking a final look at Atlantis before its planned 2:01 p.m. blast off, walking all the way down the tower at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A.

The team is nicknamed the "Ice Team," since it's looking closely for signs of ice build-up on the external tank that could cause damage to delicate heat-shielding tiles on the orbiter's belly and wing leading edges.

The team is also looking for any loose debris - technically called foreign object debris, of FOD - that could cause damage during liftoff. Dressed in protective orange suits, they start their inspection at the tower's 255-foot level, and walk down from there.

The inspection should be complete around 10 a.m., and the countdown will pick up from T minus three hours shortly after that. The Atlantis crew is scheduled to depart for the pad at 10:16 a.m.

We'll begin our series of live pre-launch interviews from KSC's press site at 10 a.m. Click "Read more..." to see the line-up of guests, which includes a change from previous posted schedules.

++10 a.m.: Matt Ashmore, senior tools engineer with ATK, will join us. We'll talk about some of the 114 tools that have been developed for the telescope servicing crew. We'll also have a live demonstration of some of the tools.

++10:30 a.m.: Former NASA astronaut Jon McBride, who now makes appearances at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. We'll talk about the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction and how closely it resembles the real thing.

++11 a.m.: Former NASA astronaut Loren Shriver, now vice president of engineering and integration for United Space Alliance and USA's Chief Technology Officer, will join us. He was commander of the 1990 mission to deploy the Hubble telescope.

From 11:30 to noon we'll breakaway for the debut of a half-hour Florida Today television news program on WBCC-TV, the local public television station located on channel 5 on local cable systems.

++12 p.m.: Former NASA astronaut Mike Bloomfield, now with shuttle booster manufacturer ATK, will update us on preparations for the Ares I-X launch, which is the first test flight in NASA's bid to return American astronauts to the moon.

The launch is scheduled for no earlier than Aug. 30 from pad 39B, where Endeavour now is poised for launch on a rescue mission should Atlantis sustain critical damage in flight.

++12:30 p.m.: Mike Dahm, Boeing Lead Test Engineer for STS-125, will join us. Dahm led the team at Kennedy Space Center that tested and prepped all the Hubble hardware that is going up in Atlantis.

1 p.m.: Hubble Project Scientist Mal Niedner of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. We'll talk about what Hubble has meant to astronomy, and what new science is planned with the new and repaired instruments after the mission.

1:30 p.m. NASA Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburge will join us. We'll talk about a supply run she and her STS-131 crewmates will be making to the International Space Station next March.

In the meantime, you can watch "Saving Hubble," a half-hour special we produced for WBCC-TV. It previews the Atlantis flight, the rescue mission that would be flown if Atlantis suffers severe damage, the Hubble Space Telescope and what the observatory has meant to our knowledge of the universe.

Click Here To Watch.

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