Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rehearsal of final shuttle launch under way

Countdown clocks at Kennedy Space Center are ticking down to a simulated final shuttle launch this morning.

Four Atlantis astronauts dressed in orange launch-and-entry suits as they would on launch day -- now planned July 8 -- and walked out of crew quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building around 7:45 a.m. to cheers from employees gathered there.

Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim boarded NASA's silver astrovan for a ride to the pad and will soon be strapping into their seats aboard Atlantis.

It's all part of the standard training together with launch teams in Firing Room 4 that is known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, which is unfolding for the last time at KSC.

Teams often refer to today's rehearsal as the "T-0" event, but the simulated countdown will actually halt at T minus four seconds around 11 a.m.

Then the crew will practice procedures for getting out of Atlantis during an emergency, including moving across the pad's 195-foot level to a set of slide wire baskets they could use to whisk them to the ground.

The crew plans to fly back to Houston later today.

IMAGE: Astronauts climb aboard Atlantis for today's countdown dress rehearsal. Credit: NASA

1 comment:

Del "Abe" Jones said...

Last Flight?

Been around since the Saturn’s
Seen a lotta launches to the sky
Saw the Challenger’s first landing
And, Her first time, to fly.

A bunch they’ve helped Mankind
We learned things we never knew
Ever since that first time
Man spread his wings, and flew.

Too bad, it wasn’t all for Peace
Or just, for the good of Man
But just like we always do
Man screwed up, the plan!

So much, we could have done
To make this World a better place
But someday, of the Human
There won’t be, ‘nary a trace.

What we haven’t killed or ruined
Will bloom, and flourish, once more
As higher powers, scratch their head
And ask, “What was Mankind for?”

Del “Abe” Jones


There’s seven more Heroes
Added to that legacy
Of space flight and travel
From the Cape of Kennedy.

An almost perfect Mission
Of the scientific kind
With a myriad of experiments
Meant, to better humankind.

Two Ladies and five Men
Plus thousands on the ground
Excited about their return
As they were homeward bound.

Only minutes left, to complete
Another page of history
Only to leave us, with questions
Of yet, another tragedy.

Sadly, we all forget
About the dangers of each Flight
We take it all for granted
When, everything goes right.

But, we’ll keep on going on
For it’s in, the Nature of Man
To not let the setbacks
Change, the goal of the Plan.

Through lives ended, prematurely
By what, some Greater Power willed
They left their mark upon this Earth
With some dreams, they have fulfilled.

Now, they’re with that growing Crew
Who fly around in Heaven
Another group, who we should call
"The Magnificent Seven".

Del "Abe" Jones

(Written after watching Her pass over Orlando for first landing at Cape. Also saw Her first launch, live.)

Well, the giant silver bird
Has passed another test -
And this time She came back home
She returned to Her nest.

Four hundred miles per hour -
More than three miles high -
She sure was a pretty sight
As She streaked across the sky.

In the early morning light
She made a "booming" sound -
Her head held high, bold and proud
As She dropped to the ground.

She'd been in another world
For one week and a day -
High above the Earth and clouds
Where people look to pray.

Taken so much for granted
In this here day and age -
But in the books of history
She wrote another page.


Challenging the earth’s heavens
These seven pioneers
Embarked to gain new knowledge
To conquer new frontiers
A new world lay before them
The light of a new dawn
A place of unknown dangers
Where man has always gone
To see beyond horizons
To peer over the next hill
Always a goal of mankind
One, he must try to fulfill
Some have come through unscathed
And some were bound to die
But none of them have failed
For they had the will to try
These gained immortality
Though, on a tragic page
In the book of history
Of this newborn space age
They offered and gave their all
They paid the price supreme
As mankind has always done
In his quest of a dream.


Challenger, I watched you
As you first invaded space
And you flew over me one morn
To return to your home base.

You went back out again
Different people in control
Though you were just a machine
You'd helped man reach his goal.

We will probably never know
Why you said you were done -
But why did you have to take
The lives of those brave seven?

You made yourself immortal
With those you held inside
To those who knew your "soul"
To those below who cried.

You did yourself so proud
With your triumph over space
But with your last attempt
You caused so many a sad face.

"Don't Challenge 'Er.", I said
The first time around -
But for these final words
There's no title to be found.
Del "Abe" Jones