Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Atlantis astronauts honored to be last shuttle crew

The four astronauts who make up the final space shuttle crew said this morning they are honored to be part of such a historic mission.

"There’s many people who could be here," Commander Chris Ferguson said. "When the dice fell, our names were facing up so we consider ourselves fortunate, lucky."

Ferguson stood side-by-side with his fellow crew mates, pilot Doug Hurely and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, in front of Atlantis at launch pad 39A.

Dressed in NASA baseball caps and their blue spacesuits, the final shuttle crew took about 20 minutes to answer questions from the media.

Many were about the significance of being the final astronauts who will ride in a space shuttle before the 30-year program ends.

The final launch is targeted for July 8.

“We’re just the tip of the iceberg of a huge group of people," Magnus said. "We feel very, very strongly that we have to be as prepared as possible to perform the mission to the extent that their expecting of us and I think when it’s all done we can all celebrate together, not just the mission but the whole program.”

The crew is in Florida this week for preflight training.

Tomorrow they will undergo a final dress rehearsal before heading back to Houston later in the day.

Photo: With space shuttle Atlantis in the background, the STS-135 astronauts answer questions from the news media at Launch Pad 39A. They are, from right: Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Chris Ferguson. Image credit: NASA TV

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