Friday, January 22, 2010

Endeavour crew departs KSC, but return not far off

Endeavour's six astronauts this morning boarded T-38 jets and took off from Kennedy Space Center around 8:30 a.m., ending a nearly week-long stay for training to return to Houston.

The crew is expected back in less than two weeks ahead of their 4:39 a.m. Feb. 7 launch, if that date for the year's first shuttle mission is confirmed at a flight readiness review Wednesday.

The crew led by George Zamka visited KSC for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, a standard countdown dress rehearsal that concluded Thursday morning.

They also participated in pad escape drills and practiced landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft.

The payload for the 13-day mission to the International Space Station, the Tranquility module and attached cupola, was inserted into Endeavour on Wednesday.

Closeouts are in progress and the payload bay doors are expected to be closed for flight Saturday.

At least some of the crew this weekend plan to visit the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to inspect a set of four 14-foot hoses being designed for their mission.

The ammonia coolant lines are to be connected between Tranquility and the station during one of three planned spacewalks by mission specialists Bob Benhken and Nicholas Patrick.

Manufacturing a new set became urgent after the original set failed pre-flight tests earlier this month.

IMAGE NOTE: At launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, the crew of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-130 mission poses for a group portrait in front of Endeavour's external tank and one of its solid rocket boosters following the completion of the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, the dress rehearsal for their launch. From left are Mission Specialist Robert Behnken; Commander George Zamka; Pilot Terry Virts; and Mission Specialists Kathryn Hire, Nicholas Patrick and Stephen Robinson. Endeavour's launch is targeted for Feb. 7. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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