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Preparing for Flight
11.17.06
 
The STS-116 astronauts were at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida this week for prelaunch training, typically held a few weeks before launch.

The Discovery crew pose for the media after their arrival to Kennedy. Image left: The STS-116 crew poses for the media at the Shuttle Landing Facility after their arrival. At the microphone is Mission Commander Mark Polansky. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image
All of Discovery's crew members took part in the terminal countdown demonstration test, including Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot William Oefelein and Mission Specialists Robert Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, Sunita Williams and the European Space Agency's Christer Fuglesang.
Image right: At Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility, the shuttle training aircraft taxis onto the runway. Inside are STS-116 Pilot William Oefelein and Commander Mark Polansky, who are flying the aircraft to practice landing the orbiter. + View High-res Image The shuttle training aircraft taxis onto the runway.
Polansky and Oefelein kicked off the exercise by flying the shuttle training aircraft. This specially designed jet helps astronauts feel like they're landing the shuttle, commonly known as the "the flying brick." These are important practice sessions because they'll only have one opportunity to get the shuttle safely back on the ground at mission's end.
Helmeted Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham in the M-113 armored personnel carrier. Image left: Mission Specialist Joan Higginbotham is helmeted and ready to practice driving the M-113 armored personnel carrier. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image
The entire crew practiced driving the M-113 armored personnel carrier. This vehicle was developed to assist the crew in leaving the pad quickly and safely in the unlikely event of an emergency.
 
Image right: Pilot William Oefelein wears his helmet in preparation for driving the M-113 armored personnel carrier. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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Pilot William Oefelein poses in the M-113 armored personnel carrier.
The astronauts also were involved in fire-suppression training and several other safety briefings during the day.
Commander Mark Polansky places the mission placard at the hatch opening. Image left: In the White Room on Launch Pad 39B, Commander Mark Polansky places the STS-116 mission placard at the hatch opening. The White Room is the point of entry into Space Shuttle Discovery for the crew. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image
The next day, the team trained at Launch Pad 39B. After a short elevator ride to the pad's 195-ft. level, the astronauts tested their agility getting in and out of the slide-wire baskets that are part of the emergency exit system.
Image right: At the slidewire basket landing area at Launch Pad 39B, STS-116 crew members sit in one of the baskets used for emergency egress from the orbiter. From left are Pilot William Oefelein and Mission Specialists Joan Higginbotham and Christer Fuglesang. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image Oefelein, Higginbotham and Fuglesang sit in the slidewire basket.
In case of an emergency, the crew would hop in the seven baskets suspended from slidewires and safely slide about 1,200 feet to a landing zone on the ground.
Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick during suit fit-check. Image left: Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick checks the fit of his gloves during suit fit-check, part of the prelaunch preparations during terminal countdown demonstration test activities. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image
The team also took part in the "payload bay walkdown." This gave the astronauts an opportunity to view and inspect the payloads in the orbiter's cargo bay for the last time before launch to confirm its readiness for flight.
Image right: In the white room on Launch Pad 39B, STS-116 Mission Specialist Christer Fuglesang is helped with his gear before entering Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo credit: NASA/Amanda Diller + View High-res Image Mission Specialist Christer Fuglesang in the White Room.
On the last day of exercises, the astronauts practiced a complete launch-day countdown.
Mission Specialist Robert Curbeam in the White Room. Image Left: In the white room on Launch Pad 39B, STS-116 Mission Specialist Robert Curbeam is helped with his gear before entering Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo credit: NASA/Amanda Diller + View High-res Image
They began by donning their "pumpkin" orange flight suits at the Operations and Checkout Building and made the traditional "walkout" to the van that took them to the launch pad.
Image right: Mission Specialist Sunita Williams is enthusiastic about donning her launch suit to check the fit, including the helmet, which also is part of the prelaunch preparations. Williams is traveling to the International Space Station on Discovery and will remain behind as a flight engineer with the Expedition 14 crew. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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Mission Specialist Sunita Williams dons her launch suit.
The crew members took their seats in Discovery and familiarized themselves with all the dials, switches and levers they'll be using in actual flight conditions. The training ended with a main-engine ignition and cut-off simulation exercise.
The Discovery astronauts pose in front of the white solid rocket boosters and external tank. Image left: On the 195-foot level of the fixed service structure on Launch Pad 39B, STS-116 astronauts gather for a photo in front of the white solid rocket boosters and external tank of Space Shuttle Discovery. They have just completed a simulated launch countdown and emergency egress from the orbiter, part of the terminal countdown demonstration test. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image
The astronauts left Kennedy for Johnson Space Center in Houston for final launch preparations for the mission that will continue construction on the International Space Station -- one that's touted among NASA's hardest and most complex missions in history.


 
 
Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center