KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – Technicians are scouring the skin of space shuttle Endeavourtoday after hail pounded the spacecraft yesterday.
The six astronauts who will fly Endeavour on its last scheduled mission are moving through the last phases of training as launch day nears. The crew is at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this week for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test known as TCDT. The work culminates with a dress rehearsal of launch day for the astronauts and the whole launch team. Endeavour, standing on Launch Pad 39A, is set up exactly as it will be for liftoff and the crew takes their assigned seats.
“This is the time when our training meets the processing of the vehicle,” Commander Mark Kelly told news media during a news conference this morning. The event took place indoors instead of its traditional setting at the launch pad because of poor weather conditions at Kennedy.
Describing the mission’s payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, as one of the premiere scientific instruments of the 21st century, Kelly said the 15,000-pound physics experiment has to potential to rewrite humanity’s knowledge of the cosmos as it measures cosmic rays from a perch on the International Space Station.
“We’re pretty excited about what the results are going to be,” Kelly said.
“(AMS Physicist and Nobel Laureate Sam Ting) told us that within an hour of attaching to the space station, they’re going to start collecting data. AMS could be teaching us things about the universe that are completely unexpected.”
Mission Specialist Mike Finke, a veteran station commander and resident, said the crew is ready for the two-week shuttle flight.
“We’re a team, we’re a family and from what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think there’s anything out there we can’t handle,” Finke said. “When we have our game on, this is an amazing crew.”