Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shuttle Atlantis Astronauts Arrive at KSC

The four veteran astronauts for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 mission arrived Monday evening at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for their prelaunch countdown rehearsal.

"I speak on behalf of the crew, everyone in the astronaut office, and I'm sure everybody here at KSC in saying that we are just trying to savor the moment," said STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson upon arrival. "As our children and our children's children ask us, we want to be able to say, 'We remember when there was a space shuttle.'" As crewmates Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim looked on, Ferguson also thanked the gathered media representatives for taking the message of the space program to the public.

Their T-38 jets touched down at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility at about 5:30 p.m. EDT. The crew will participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test and related training. The countdown full dress rehearsal is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, at Kennedy's Launch Pad 39A, technicians are performing high-tech X-ray scans of the tops and bottoms of 50 support beams, called stringers, on the shuttle-facing side of space shuttle Atlantis' external fuel tank. The scans should take about a week to complete and are expected to confirm there are no problems with the tank's stringers. Scans began Sunday due to strong storms on Saturday, which caused no damage to the shuttle and pad. Technicians are also replacing a suspected leaky valve in Atlantis' space shuttle main engine No. 3.

Atlantis is being prepared for the STS-135 mission, the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, targeted for launch July 8.