Thursday, August 06, 2009

Live At KSC: Astronauts Aim To Haul Huge Load

LIVE IMAGES: The images above are from live video feeds in the Launch Complex 39 area at Kennedy Space Center. They will automatically refresh to the most up-to-the-minute image every 30 seconds.

Discovery's astronauts aim to haul up the largest assortment of equipment ever trucked to the International Space Station during a mission that will enable the U.S. and its partner nations to keep the outpost fully staffed.

"We are equipping the station to sustain the capability to have six people onboard for a long, long time," said European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who became the first Swede and Nordic citizen to fly in space back in 2006.

Among the gear: new crew quarters, three refrigerator-sized scientific research racks and a treadmill named for comic Stephen Colbert.

"These are some very big, important items," Fuglesang said.

Fuglesang and six crewmates are at Kennedy Space Center this week for emergency training at launch pad 39A and a two-day practice countdown that includes a launch-day dress rehearsal.

The astronauts today are getting familiar with the launch tower escape system at the pad. The system comprises seven metal baskets that would zip down a 1,200-foot slidewire to a bunker on the outer perimeter of the launch complex.

On Friday, the astronauts will don partial-pressure launch-and-entry suits in the suit-up room at crew quarters at the KSC Operations and Checkout Building and then board NASA's Astro-Van for a 12-mile trip out to the launch pad.

They'll board an elevator and ride up to the 195-foot-level of the launch tower, cross a grated metal catwalk into a small white room and then climb through the side hatch of the orbiter Discovery and strap into seats on the flight deck and middeck.

NASA's shuttle launch team will be in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center 3.5 miles to the west, conducting the final hours of a practice countdown.

Countdown clocks will come to a halt at T-Minus 4 seconds, the launch team will simulate a main engine shutdown and the astronauts will go through an emergency escape drill. They climb into the baskets, which also are on the 195-foot level of the tower, but they will not ride down the slidewire.

The practice countdown and emergency training is part of the crew's Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT. The drill is the last major training exercise for the crew at KSC prior to launch.

The Discovery crew is led by veteran mission commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow and includes pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Fuglesang, Patrick Forrester, Danny Olivas, Jose Hernandez and Nicole Stott.

Stott is only the fourth KSC alum to be selected to the astronauts corps. She worked in a variety of increasingly responsible shuttle processing jobs here between 1988 and 1998.

Discovery and its crew are tentatively scheduled to launch Aug. 25. The treadmill they will be delivering to the station was named COLBERT -- Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill -- after the host of The Colbert Report, which airs on Comedy Central.

NASA earlier held a contest to name the Node 3 connecting module and Colbert urged his viewers to vote for his name. The name ended up tallying more votes than NASA's suggested Serenity, Earthrise, Legacy and Venture, among others. NASA ultimately named the node Tranquility and then named the treadmill after Colbert as a sort of consolation prize.

Sturckow said the astronauts likely will make an appearance on the show after the mission.

"There is a great desire to get the treadmill up and operational," Sturckow told Florida Today at the launch pad today. "Once all that is done...then it will probably be time to start thinking about having some sort of event on the Colbert show."

1 comment:

CharlieA said...

After Colbert started his "MeMeMe!" campaign, I submitted the name 'Audacity'.
Might make a nice peice - how many candidate Node 3 names were submitted, and what were some of the more unusual ones.
Colbert annoys me.