Next shuttle crew flies to Cape for practice countdown
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: January 18, 2010
Commander George Zamka and his crew of space station builders reached Kennedy Space Center at sundown Monday for this week's emergency training exercises and a countdown dress rehearsal.
"We just flew over Endeavour out on the pad and she looks just beautiful. We can't wait to borrow her for a couple of weeks," Robinson told reporters at the runway shortly after arrival.
"It's wonderful to be here at the Kennedy Space Center," Zamka said. "This is a very special trip for us. It marks the transition for us from flight preparation and training to the operational stage of our flight."
Every shuttle crew undergoes the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, in the final weeks before a planned launch. While in Florida, the astronauts will spend time learning how to evacuate pad 39A if an emergency arises, including procedures to operate the slide-wire baskets that would quickly whisk the crew from the launch tower to a bunker west of the pad, and test-drive an armored tank available for the astronauts to escape the area.
On Thursday, the crew will board Endeavour for a full countdown simulation. The astronauts will follow a normal launch morning routine with breakfast, a weather briefing on conditions at the Cape and various abort landing sites, then don their suits and depart crew quarters at about 7:45 a.m. to board the Astrovan that will take them to pad 39A.
After arriving shortly past 8 a.m., all six astronauts will climb inside Endeavour and strap into their assigned seats for the final three hours of the mock countdown.
Clocks will halt in the final seconds to simulate a shutdown of the three main engines just prior to liftoff around 11 a.m. The crew will egress the shuttle and practice scurrying to the slide-wire baskets.
Later, they'll return to Houston to resume final mission preps at their base there.
Endeavour is targeting a predawn blastoff on February 7 to deliver the Tranquility module to the International Space Station. If all remains on schedule, the astronauts will jet into KSC on February 2 for the start of the real countdown to launch.
"Really looking forward to working with all the great hardware that's been prepared for us here. Folks have worked really hard and we're very happy to take this fantastic vehicle on orbit," said Hire, a former spaceport worker who was born in Mobile, Alabama, but also considers Florida's Merritt Island home.