Monday, July 04, 2011

Astronauts: Enjoy The Fireworks & Apple Pie

Holding American flags on the 235th birthday of the United States of America, the Atlantis astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, ready to launch Friday on the nation's 135th and final shuttle mission.

Two busloads of journalists were on hand at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility when the astronauts touched down in two Northrup T-38 Talon training jets.

"You know, this is a day that is decidely American, a day where we kind of reflect on our independence and all of the wonderful things that we really have as a part of being the United States of America," mission commander Chris Ferguson said.

"I think it's wonderful that you've all come out to join us when I know, and I certainly hope, you all have an opportunity to go home when this is all done and enjoy some barbeque, some fireworks and some apple pie."

A countdown to the 11:26 a.m. Friday launch will begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and the astronauts will spend the week finishing training for a final supply run to the International Space Station.

"We have a very event-filled mission ahead of us. We have 12 days, and we'll be very, very busy," Ferguson said. "And when it's all over, I think I speak for everyone when I say we'll be very proud to put the right end bookend on the space shuttle program."

Ferguson leads a crew that includes pilot Doug Hurley and two mission specialists: Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. They hav the last four of 852 tickets to ride on the most capable spacecraft ever devised by human engineers.

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