Shuttle crew comes to town for practice countdown
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: March 29, 2011
The six astronauts to fly Endeavour's final orbital voyage have jetted into the Kennedy Space Center for this week's countdown dress rehearsal with the space shuttle launch team.
"We like coming to see the space shuttle. It's always exciting, especially when you are three weeks away from launch," Kelly said.
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 Friday, the crew boards 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 reach the pad shortly past 8 a.m., the 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 egresses the shuttle and practices scurrying to the slide-wire baskets to finish the training drill.
"Terminal countdown test is when the processing and the training kinda comes together after being parallel things for a very long period of time," Kelly said.
After TCDT concludes, the crew will return to Houston to finish their training there before coming back to Florida on April 15 to begin the countdown.
Endeavour is scheduled for blastoff April 19 on the spaceplane's 25th and last flight before retirement. The 14-day flight will install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and a spare parts pallet on the International Space Station. Also on the agenda, Feustel, Fincke and Chamitoff will work in pairs to conduct a series of maintenance spacewalks outside the station.