Monday, October 19, 2009

Live at KSC: Atlantis Crew Flying in for Training

Update, 11:30 a.m.: All four T-38 jets have touched down. NASA TV did not interrupt its International Space Station Expedition 21 commentary for live coverage of the landings. Photos provided by Mike Brown of Florida Today.

Update: The Atlantis crew is now expected to arrive around 11:15 a.m. The Gulfstream 2 carrying crew member Leland Melvin had to turn back to Houston for unspecified reasons, so he'll arrive later.

That combined with the early Tuesday move of the Ares I-X rocket are causing managers to juggle this week's schedule for the crew's Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test training, or TCDT.

Six astronauts hoping to blast off next month on space shuttle Atlantis are due to fly in to Kennedy Space Center this morning for three days of pre-launch training.

Led by mission commander Charlie "Scorch" Hobaugh, a 47-year-old Marine colonel, the crew is expected to touch down on KSC's three-mile shuttle landing strip around 10:15 a.m. in T-38 jets and a modified Gulfstream 2.

You can watch their arrival live here - just click on the NASA TV still image at right to launch a video player.

And you can track the astronauts' arrival by clicking on the tail numbers of their aircraft: NASA901; NASA907; NASA915; and NASA923.

Joining Hobaugh will be pilot Barry "Butch" Wilmore (second from bottom) and mission specialists Randy Bresnik (left), Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin (arriving late) and Bobby Satcher (bottom).

Tentatively scheduled to launch around 4 p.m. Nov. 12, the crew will go through a full launch countdown dress rehearsal on Wednesday and practice emergency escape procedures at pad 39A.

On Tuesday morning, the astronauts - three veterans and three rookies - are scheduled to answer questions from reporters at the launch pad.

That would take place a short time after NASA plans to roll the Ares I-X test flight rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39B, about a mile northwest of shuttle Atlantis on pad 39A, as the crow flies.

The rocket's "rollout" is scheduled to begin at 12:01 a.m. and take about seven hours.

The Atlantis crew will deliver spare parts to the International Space Station during a planned 11-day mission including three spacewalks.

The crew will grow to seven on the way home, when former KSC engineer Nicole Stott boards the shuttle to end a three-month tour as a station flight engineer.

Click here to read a summary about Atlantis' STS-129 mission, the sixth-to-last before NASA plans to retire its fleet of three space shuttles.

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