Friday, July 01, 2011

Atlantis one week from final shuttle launch

Four Atlantis astronauts will enter quarantine in Houston today after a final ascent simulation, one week before their planned blastoff from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 a.m. next Friday to begin the 135th and last shuttle mission.

"It sounds so final," mission commander Chris Ferguson said during press briefings Thursday. "I don't think we want any more time, though. We're ready. We're trained. We want to go do it and we want to go do it on time."

At launch pad 39A today, technicians are working to close out the aft compartment of shuttle Atlantis.

Earlier this week, teams pressurized the orbiter's proppulsion systems and closed its payload bay doors for flight.

Inside the cargo bay is a module packed with 8,600 pounds of supplies and spare parts that will help keep the International Space Station fully stocked and staffed through 2012.

Mission commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim plan to fly into KSC around 2:45 p.m. on Independence Day, and the final shuttle countdown will pick up at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

After a series of media events in recent days and weeks, Ferguson said Thursday he was looking forward to quarantine for some quiet time to review notes and collect his thoughts before the final shuttle launch.

Only medically approved personnel staff and family can interact with the crew members during quarantine. They'll start out in Building 259 at Johnson Space Center and move into crew quarters in the Operations and Checkout building when they arrive at Kennedy.

KSC processing teams are scheduled to have the July 4 holiday weekend off, barring any severe weather that requires inspections of Atlantis at the pad.
IMAGE: After completing simulated pad emergency exit training on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on June 23, the STS-135 crew members paused for a photo. From left are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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