Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shuttle Crew Arrives For Practice Countdown

The crew for shuttle Endeavour's 25th and final flight flew to the Kennedy Space Center this evening to take part in a practice countdown for a planned April 19 launch on an International Space Station outfitting mission.

Mission commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates will don bright orange launch-and-entry suits and strap into Endeavour on Friday for what amounts to a launch day dress rehearsal.

"We like coming to see the space shuttle. So it's exciting, especially when you are three weeks away from launch," Kelly told reporters and photographers gathered at the Shuttle Landing Facility for the crew's arrival.

The crew includes pilot Gregory "Box" Johnson and four mission specialists: Greg Chamitoff, Andrew "Drew" Feuestel, Michael Fincke and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency.

Chamitiff, Fincke and Vittori all have served tours of duty on the outpost. Feustel is a veteran Hubble Space Telescope repairman.

Kelly is a veteran of three previous shuttle missions to the station.

The astronauts this week will all go through emergency training at pad 39A. They'll get familiar with the emergency escape system on the launch tower and learn to drive an armored personnel carrier that would be used to transport injured astronauts to a helicopter just outside the perimeter of the pad area.

An abbreviated two-day practice countdown will pick up Wednesday. The astronauts will be working with the launch team in Firing Room 4, practicing countdown procedures as if it were launch day.

Kelly and his crew will depart KSC Friday afternoon and return to KSC in 18 days for final launch preparations.

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