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STS-116 Countdown Dress Rehearsal
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Flying T-38 jets, the STS-116 astronauts arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for their final training in Florida before launching aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in December.

Led by Commander Mark Polansky, the seven-member crew took part in the terminal countdown demonstration test -- a milestone for every space shuttle mission.

As always, the highlight of the three-day exercise was a full dress rehearsal of the countdown that had both the look and feel of the real thing.

On the mock launch day, crew members awakened and sat down together to the typical prelaunch meal before they were helped into their bright-orange launch and landing suits.

They walked to the awaiting silver Astrovan for the 20-minute ride to Launch Pad 39B, where the White Room's closeout crew strapped them into the orbiter.

Once the astronauts were in place, the NASA launch director in the nearby Launch Control Center lead the crew and launch team through a rehearsal of the final countdown hours.

Earlier in the week's activities, the astronauts participated in a slate of training exercises that centered on safety.

The crew learned how to escape from the launch pad using slidewire baskets that can whisk them to a nearby bunker in the unlikely event of an emergency at the pad on launch day.

They practiced driving M-113 armored personnel carriers -- the small tanks they would use to drive safely away from the launch pad if necessary.

The crew also got time to check the payload and equipment for the mission.

With their training and launch rehearsal completed, the STS-116 astronauts left Kennedy aboard the T-38s, returning to their home base in Houston to continue training for the real countdown in December.

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