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Endeavour Returns to Kennedy Space Center
December 16, 2008
 

The final leg of Space Shuttle Endeavour's cross-country ferry flight was completed Dec. 12, 2008 when it landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Florida's east coast. The Endeavour and its modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., at noon and arrived at Kennedy at mid-afternoon.

The ferry flight had begun early Wednesday morning when the piggyback pair departed NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California on the first leg of its cross-country journey to Biggs Army Airfield at Ft. Bliss adjacent to El Paso, Texas. After refueling, the 747-shuttle combo continued on to Naval Air Station Ft. Worth where the craft remained overnight. They continued on to Barksdale on Thursday, with a short detour to pass over NASA's John Space Center near Houston in a salute to the thousands of NASA employees who make the agency's human spaceflight programs a reality.

Weather conditions along the eastern seaboard prevented the 747 carrying Endeavour from completing its ferry mission Thursday afternoon, so the final segment of the flight was rescheduled for Friday.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft flew ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets at flight speeds.

Endeavour landed at Edwards Nov. 30 when weather conditions along Florida's east coast prevented landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date. Endeavour's next mission, STS-127 to the International Space Station, is tentatively scheduled for no earlier than next May, although that date is likely to be delayed due to STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, also being rescheduled for that month.

For more, log on to www.nasa.gov/shuttle.
 




Endeavour's Ferry Flight Set for Wednesday Morning 12.10.08 - 2:00 pm


The modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Endeavour soars aloft from Edwards Air Force Base on the first leg of its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center just after sunrise on Dec. 10, 2008.The modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Endeavour soars aloft from Edwards Air Force Base on the first leg of its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center just after sunrise on Dec. 10, 2008. (NASA Photo / Jim Ross)
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The Space Shuttle Endeavour is on its way back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mounted atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, Endeavour was carried aloft on the first leg of its trip back to Kennedy early Wednesday morning, Dec. 10, from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California.

The piggyback combo lifted off runway 04 at Edwards moments after sunrise at 7:07 a.m. and landed at the first intermediate stop, Biggs Army Airfield at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, Texas, at 10:21 a.m. MST after a two-hour, 15-minute flight. After refueling and lunch for the crew, the 747-shuttle combo took off again at 12:29 p.m. MST on the second leg of the cross-country ferry flight to its next stop, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Ft. Worth, where it landed at 2:12 p.m. MST Wednesday.

After an overnight stay at Ft. Worth, Endeavour and its 747 carrier aircraft are expected to continue their ferry flight on Thursday, arriving at the Kennedy Space Center either late Thursday or by mid-day Friday, depending on weather conditions over the southeast states.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft is flying ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets at flight speeds.

Endeavour landed at Edwards on Sunday, Nov. 30, after weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.

Endeavour had been launched Nov. 14 on the 16-day STS-126 mission to the International Space Station. Endeavour's next flight will be mission STS-127, currently targeted for launch no earlier than May 2009.

For more, log on to www.nasa.gov/shuttle.






Endeavour's Ferry Flight Set for Wednesday Morning 12.09.08 - 1:00 pm


The Space Shuttle Endeavour and its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft are illuminated by the morning sun Tuesday after mating of the pair was completed overnight in the Mate-DeMate gantry at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The Space Shuttle Endeavour and its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft are illuminated by the morning sun Tuesday after mating of the pair was completed overnight in the Mate-DeMate gantry at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The pair are scheduled to depart Edwards Air Force Base on their ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday morning, Dec. 10. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis)
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The departure of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its modified 747 carrier aircraft on the first leg of its trip back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is set for early Wednesday morning, Dec. 10, from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

Takeoff is scheduled for about 7 a.m. Wednesday from the main runway at Edwards on Runway 04 toward the northeast, although a wind shift could mandate a change to a Runway 22 takeoff to the southwest.

During a weather briefing at mid-day Tuesday, meteorologist Kathy Winters advised ferry flight mission managers and the flight crews that weather conditions are expected to be good over the southwestern states for at least the first two legs of the cross-country flight. After an overnight stay at one of the intermediate stops, the piggyback combo is expected to continue its ferry flight on Thursday, arriving at the Kennedy Space Center either late Thursday or by mid-day Friday, weather over the southeast permitting. Some cloudiness and light turbulence is expected over the routes of the flight in the southeastern states, with a slight chance of thunderstorms.

Strong westerly winds at Edwards which had halted mating of Endeavour to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft abated Monday evening, and technicians completed "soft" mating of the two craft overnight. Final hard mating of the pair during which the shuttle is firmly bolted to the three mounting pylons on the 747 is expected to occur Tuesday evening.

The main base area of Edwards Air Force Base will not be open to the public for viewing of the shuttle's ferry flight takeoff. However, the 747-shuttle combination may be visible after a Runway 04 takeoff just north of the base in the Boron and North Edwards areas. The east lakeshore viewing site off Mercury Boulevard on the east side of Rogers Dry Lake will also be open to the public, although it is some distance from the takeoff point.

The ferry flight takeoff should be telecast live on NASA Television when it occurs.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft will fly ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets at flight speeds.

Endeavour landed at Edwards last Sunday afternoon after weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.






Endeavour's Planned Ferry Flight Pushed Back to Wednesday Morning 12.08.08 - 3:00 pm


Puffy pink clouds form a canopy over the Space Shuttle Endeavour as processing continues in the Mate-Demate Device at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in preparation for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center. Puffy pink clouds form a canopy over the Space Shuttle Endeavour as processing continues in the Mate-Demate Device at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in preparation for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
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Following a mid-day weather briefing Monday, NASA ferry flight managers have decided to postpone the departure of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its modified 747 carrier aircraft on the first leg of its trip back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Wednesday morning, Dec. 10. A further weather briefing is planned for mid-day Tuesday, which could impact the schedule if conditions change.

Although weather conditions over the southwestern states are expected to improve by Tuesday, a slow-moving front developing in the mid-south and extending through the southeastern states could bring rainfall, turbulence and the chance of thunderstorms to that area through at least Wednesday and possibly into Thursday. Present plans call for the 747-shuttle combo to stay overnight at one of the intermediate stops, and then continue on to Kennedy on Thursday or Friday, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, strong westerly winds sweeping over the high desert of Southern California forced a halt to lifting the Space Shuttle Endeavour and mounting it on its carrier aircraft Monday. Winds have been running at sustained velocities of 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 35 knots, well above the limits of 20 knots sustained and 24 knots gusts for that operation. Those wind velocities are expected die down Monday evening, allowing the shuttle-747 mating operation to be completed.

Currently, takeoff is scheduled for about 7 a.m. Wednesday from the main runway at Edwards on Runway 04 toward the northeast, although winds could mandate a change to a Runway 22 takeoff to the southwest.

The main base area of Edwards Air Force Base will not be open to the public for viewing of the shuttle's ferry flight takeoff. However, the 747-shuttle combination may be visible after a Runway 04 takeoff just north of the base in the Boron and North Edwards areas, or in the areas just south or west of Edwards in case of a Runway 22 takeoff. The east lakeshore viewing site off Mercury Boulevard on the east side of Rogers Dry Lake will also be open to the public, although it is some distance from the takeoff point.

The ferry flight takeoff should be telecast live on NASA Television when it occurs.

Meanwhile, United Space Alliance technicians completed retraction of the landing gear and body flap, powering down the shuttle and installation of the tail cone over the shuttle's engine nozzles Sunday night. The tail cone smoothes out the airflow over the aft end of the shuttle during ferry flights.

Endeavour landed at Edwards last Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.






Strong Winds May Further Delay Endeavour's Planned Departure 12.08.08 - 10:00 am


Technicians monitor the positioning of a large workstand as it is carefully moved into place around the main engine nozzles of Space Shuttle Endeavour Technicians fasten down the flanges of the aerodynamic tail cone after installation on NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour prior to its ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
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Strong westerly winds sweeping over the high desert of Southern California Monday morning have brought progress on lifting the Space Shuttle Endeavour and mounting it on its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft to a virtual halt. Winds have been running at sustained velocities of 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 35 knots, well above the limits of 20 knots sustained and 24 knots gusts for that operation. Those wind velocities are expected to continue to this evening.

Mission managers are recommending that the initial leg of the ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base be postponed further to Wednesday morning, Dec. 10. A decision on delaying to Wednesday or keeping the currently targeted Tuesday departure is expected after a weather briefing at mid-day today.

Mission managers had earlier decided following a Flight Readiness Review Sunday afternoon to delay the ferry flight from Sunday to Monday due to inclement weather conditions along the route of the initial leg of the flight and at the planned first intermediate stop.

Takeoff is tentatively planned for Runway 22 to the southwest at this time, although wind conditions Tuesday or Wednesday could mandate a switch to a Runway 04 takeoff to the northeast.

Under soggy skies on a Sunday morning, the Space Shuttle Endeavour is encased in the Mate-DeMate gantry during turnaround processing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center following its STS-126 landing at Edwards Air Force Base a week earlier. Under soggy skies on a Sunday morning, the Space Shuttle Endeavour is encased in the Mate-DeMate gantry during turnaround processing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center following its STS-126 landing at Edwards Air Force Base a week earlier. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
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The main base area of Edwards Air Force Base will not be open to the public for viewing of the shuttle's ferry flight takeoff. However, you may be able to see the 747-shuttle combination after a runway 22 takeoff in the areas just south or west of Edwards, or in the case of a Runway 04 takeoff, just north of the base in the Boron and North Edwards areas. The east lakeshore viewing site off Mercury Boulevard on the east side of Rogers Dry Lake will also be open to the public, although it is some distance from the takeoff point.

The ferry flight takeoff should be telecast live on NASA Television when it occurs.

Meanwhile, United Space Alliance technicians completed installation of the tail cone over the shuttle's engine nozzles Sunday night. The tail cone smoothes out the airflow over the aft end of the shuttle during ferry flights.

Endeavour landed at Edwards last Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.






Weather Forces Delay to Shuttle Endeavour's Ferry Flight 12.07.08


NASA technicians position the aerodynamic tailcone around the engine nozzles of the Space Shuttle Endeavour Dec. 7 in preparation for its ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA technicians position the aerodynamic tailcone around the engine nozzles of the Space Shuttle Endeavour Dec. 7 in preparation for its ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA Photo / Carla Thomas)
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A weather front over the southwestern states and expected inclement weather over the southeastern states on Tuesday have led space shuttle managers to postpone the first leg of shuttle Endeavour's ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to no earlier than Tuesday morning, Dec. 9.

The decision came at the conclusion of a flight readiness review Sunday at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards. Although there were no technical issues that forced the delay, the postponement will give shuttle turnaround processing crews additional time to complete preparations for the flight, including mounting Endeavour atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. At present, takeoff would be no earlier than about 6:15 a.m. PST Tuesday.

Overnight, technicians finished positioning and securing the body flap and engine nozzles, and positioned the aerodynamic tail cone in place. The tail cone was being secured to the aft end of the shuttle Sunday morning, followed by powering up the hydraulic systems to retract the landing gear. Lifting of the shuttle and mating it to its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft is expected to take up most of Sunday evening and overnight.

Although light showers fell today at Edwards, it had no impact on the preparations for the ferry flight.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft will fly ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets at flight speeds.

Endeavour landed at Edwards last Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.






Final Preparations for Endeavour's Ferry Flight Continue Sunday 12.06.08


United Space Alliance employees Mark Burton and Russell Wazniak attach the forward mount fixture to Shuttle Endeavour for mounting the orbiter to the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. United Space Alliance employees Mark Burton and Russell Wazniak attach the forward mount fixture to Shuttle Endeavour for mounting the orbiter to the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis)
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Space shuttle turnaround processing managers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California were still hopeful Sunday morning that the shuttle Endeavour can begin the first leg of its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Monday morning. At present, takeoff would be no earlier than about 6:15 a.m. PST Monday on Runway 22 toward the southwest, although takeoff could be delayed by technical or weather conditions.

A decision on whether to aim for a Monday morning departure or to postpone the flight to later in the day or Tuesday could come at the end of a flight readiness review scheduled for mid-day today.

Overnight, technicians finished positioning and securing the body flap and engine nozzles, and positioned the aerodynamic tail cone in place. The tail cone was being secured to the aft end of the shuttle Sunday morning, followed by powering up the hydraulic systems to retract the landing gear. Lifting of the shuttle and mating it to its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft is expected to take up most of Sunday evening and overnight. Although the schedule is very tight, managers hope to have Endeavour ready to for the ferry flight early Monday morning.

Although light rain is falling today at Edwards, it has had no impact so far on the preparations for the ferry flight.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft will fly ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets at flight speeds.

Endeavour landed at Edwards last Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It was the 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.






Shuttle ferry flight postponed to Monday morning Dec. 8 12.06.08


Due to a technical issue related to installation of the aerodynamic tailcone, the ferry flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from Edwards Air Force Base back to the Kennedy Space Center has been postponed to no earlier than early Monday morning, Dec. 8. At present, takeoff would be no earlier than about 6:30 a.m. Monday on Runway 22 toward the southwest, and takeoff could be delayed by technical or weather conditions.

The issue involved the size of three of the eight pins used to fasten the tailcone to the orbiter. Although engineering and the machine shop staff have been able to successfully resolve the problem, it has put the processing behind schedule. As a result, work planned for Friday was postponed to Saturday, including powering up of the hydraulics to retract the landing gear, positioning of the body flap and engine nozzles and installation of the tailcone itself, which is now expected to occur late Saturday night.

Lifting of Endeavour and mating it to the 747 carrier aircraft is now scheduled to occupy most of Sunday and Sunday evening. Managers are hopeful that all work will be completed and the 747-shuttle combo ready to ferry by about 1 a.m. Monday.

The flight readiness review has been rescheduled for mid-day Sunday, at which time mission managers will make final decisions on when the 747-shuttle combo will depart.

An Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft will fly ahead of the 747-shuttle combination to serve as a pathfinder to assist the shuttle carrier aircraft crew in avoiding precipitation that could damage the shuttle's insulation blankets when in flight.

Endeavour landed at Edwards Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It is was 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date.
 




Endeavour's Turnaround Going Well, Ferry Flight Could Occur Sunday 12.05.08


United Space Alliance technicians Troy Mann, Mark Shimei, Jim Smodell and Kelly Gattuso carefully wrap the lower portion of an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit prior to removal from Space Shuttle Endeavour. United Space Alliance technicians Troy Mann, Mark Shimei, Jim Smodell and Kelly Gattuso carefully wrap the lower portion of an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit prior to removal from Space Shuttle Endeavour. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)
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Turnaround processing for the Space Shuttle Endeavour continued Thursday at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California high desert. Processing managers reported that de-servicing work and preparations for Endeavour's ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are running slightly ahead of schedule as of Thursday morning, and the shuttle could depart Edwards as early as Sunday morning if all continues to go well.

Work on Thursday is focusing on draining hazardous fluids and gases from Endeavour's systems and securing of pyrotechnic devices. Pull-back of the large work stand used by technicians to de-service the main engine area and changeout of the main landing gear tires was scheduled to be performed Thursday night.

Endeavour's workflow director, Ken Tenbusch from Kennedy, advised late Wednesday that draining and inerting of the shuttle's fuel cell systems that produce electrical power was being completed.

The tail cone that fits over the engine nozzles to improve aerodynamics during the ferry flight is scheduled to be installed on Friday. Hoisting the shuttle for mounting on its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft should begin late Friday, with mating of Endeavour to the 747 and final ferry flight preparations slated for Saturday.

Endeavour landed at Edwards Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy. It is was 52nd space shuttle landing at Edwards out of 124 shuttle missions to date, and Endeavour's 22nd space flight.






De-Servicing Preparations Continue for Endeavour's Ferry Flight 12.03.08


Technicians monitor the positioning of a large workstand as it is carefully moved into place around the main engines of the Space Shuttle Endeavour during deservicing and ferry flight preparations Technicians monitor the positioning of a large workstand as it is carefully moved into place around the main engines of the Space Shuttle Endeavour during deservicing and ferry flight preparations at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)
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United Space Alliance technicians are focusing on purging the fuel cells inside space shuttle Endeavour today as they continue to de-service the spacecraft before it is flown back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Working at the gantry-like Mate-Demate Device at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California, the technicians will also offload residual propellants from Endeavour's thruster tanks, deactivate the main propulsion system and power down the shuttle today. They also may replace the four wheels on the shuttle's main landing gear while the gear is down.

On Monday, technicians installed the covers over Endeavour's flight deck windows and completed securing the main engine nozzles and drying of the engine area after positioning workstands around the shuttle. They also unloaded flight crew systems and experiments and performed inspections of the shuttle's mid-deck area.

NASA Managers are hoping to have Endeavour's de-servicing and ferry flight preparations completed and the orbiter ready to depart by Sunday morning, Dec. 7, although the schedule is fluid and the ferry flight could begin later. Endeavour will be flown back to NASA Kennedy on the back of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Endeavour landed at Edwards Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast last weekend were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy.






Endeavour De-Servicing, Ferry Flight Prep Work Underway 12.02.08


The Space Shuttle Endeavour is nestled in the Mate-DeMate Device at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as deservicing and turnaround operations get underway. The Space Shuttle Endeavour is nestled in the Mate-DeMate Device at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as de-servicing and turnaround operations get underway for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)
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Technicians working on space shuttle Endeavour turnaround operations at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California have begun the major tasks to prepare the shuttle for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Workers leveled the spacecraft on jacks Monday night to properly position it for deservicing operations in the gantry-like Mate-Demate Device at Dryden. Tuesday's work is focusing on drying and securing the three main engines, performing leak checks and securing vents, along with unloading flight crew systems and experiments and performing inspections of the shuttle's mid-deck area. Later in the day, technicians were scheduled to offload liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the shuttle's Power Reactant Storage and Distribution system, the fuel cells that provide electrical power when the shuttle is in space.

Endeavour will be flown back to NASA Kennedy on the back of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The ferry flight is tentatively scheduled to begin no earlier than Sunday, Dec. 7.

Endeavour landed at Edwards Sunday afternoon after mission managers decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast were not adequate to support a safe landing at Kennedy.

After brief comments to employees at NASA Dryden, Endeavour's astronauts flew back to their training home at NASA's Johnson Space Center on Monday.






Endeavour's Astronauts Return to Houston Monday 12.01.08


STS-126 astronauts thank Dryden employees for their mission support before departing. With a NASA F/A-18 mission support aircraft providing a backdrop, STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson (at microphone) thanked employees of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center for their support of Space Shuttle Endeavour's landing at Edwards Air Force Base Sunday. With Ferguson were STS-126 crewmembers (from left) Heidimarie Stefanyshyn–Piper, Eric Boe, Stephen Bowen, Robert Kimbrough and Donald Pettit. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)
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The seven astronauts who returned to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour at Edwards Air Force Base Sunday afternoon are on their way back to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston today.

After brief comments to several hundred employees on the back ramp at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards this morning, the flight crew of mission STS-126 climbed aboard one of NASA's Gulfstream-II Shuttle Training Aircraft and departed Edwards about 10 a.m. PST. A welcome home ceremony at Ellington Field near Houston was planned for late Monday afternoon.

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After an almost 16-day mission to the International Space Station, Endeavour landed at Edwards in Southern California's high desert at 1:25 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Endeavour descended under bright blue skies, a loud double sonic boom announcing its arrival over the desert airbase. Mission managers had earlier decided that deteriorating weather conditions along Florida's east coast were not adequate to support a safe landing at the Kennedy Space Center, and the decision was made to have Endeavour end its mission STS-126 at Edwards.

During comments to NASA Dryden employees before departure, STS-126 commander Chris Ferguson thanked all those who had a part in not only the landing but in making the "home improvement" mission to the space station a resounding success.

STS-126 pilot Eric Boe, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force who had attended test pilot school at Edwards, briefly offered his observations about how the descent from orbit and landing at Edwards recalled some of the earlier history that had been made at the desert flight-test base.

"At Mach 7 or so you get a sense of speed, and I was thinking about Edwards and the X-15 that contributed to [the research] that makes the shuttle fly," Boe commented. "It was very cool thinking that part of the shuttle flight was like the X-15 flights in the 1960s."

Following landing Sunday, Ferguson called STS-126 "a very ambitious mission, over 15 days long. We improved the space station inside and out with the water recycling system and the Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which Heidi (Piper) and her team so adeptly managed to repair (and) from what I hear is performing well. It is great to be back on the ground and in California."

Meanwhile, Endeavour is in the early stages of de-servicing at NASA Dryden as technicians begin readying the shuttle for its ferry flight back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, tentatively targeted for Monday, Dec. 8. About 200 shuttle engineers and technicians from Kennedy are traveling to Dryden Monday, and will begin turnaround operations in earnest on Tuesday.

Endeavour and its seven-person crew were in space for 15 days, 20 hours and 30 minutes after launch on Nov. 14. Endeavour arrived at the station Nov. 16, delivering equipment that will help allow the station to double its crew size to six next year. In addition, the STS-126 astronauts delivered space station Expedition 18 Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus, who replaced Greg Chamitoff, who returned to Earth aboard Endeavour.

STS-126 was the 124th shuttle mission, the 22nd flight for Endeavour and 27th shuttle flight to visit the space station. It circled Earth for 250 orbits, covering about 6.6 million miles from launch to landing.

› STS-126 Mission Home Page
 

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