Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NASA to set Endeavour's final launch date today

Senior NASA managers will convene at Kennedy Space Center this morning to review Endeavour's readiness for a planned 3:47 p.m. (corrected time) April 29 blastoff on its final flight.

The shuttle and a crew of six veteran astronauts led by Mark Kelly are scheduled to fly a 14-day mission to the International Space Station. They're set to deliver critical spare parts and the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a cosmic ray detector that will investigate dark matter and antimatter.

Joining Kelly on the crew are pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel, Mike Fincke and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori.
The mission had been preparing to launch April 19, but was delayed 10 days to avoid being at the space station at the same time one Russian resupply spacecraft departed and a new one arrived.

Last week, NASA announced the mission had been extended a day so the crew could help with maintenance on the station, then backtracked and said an extension would be considered once the crew was in orbit.

The flight readiness review begins at 8 a.m. today. Once it's over, NASA will host a press conference featuring Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations; Mike Moses, shuttle launch integration manager; and Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director.

You can follow NASA tweets updating the meeting's progress here.

Only one more flight remains after Endeavour's before the shuttle program retires. Atlantis is targeted to launch June 28.

IMAGE: On March 30, STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly, lying down, and Professor Sam Ting, Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, performed a walkdown of space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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