NASA Podcasts

STS-135 Astronauts Rehearse Launch Day
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Astronauts have been coming to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for 30 years to practice launch day aboard a space shuttle. Monday, June 20, saw the arrival of the last crew to take part in the dress rehearsal.

Its meaning was not lost on the astronauts.

I think I speak for the whole crew, you know, we're very honored to be in this position, there's many people who could be here. We just happened to, when the dice fell we were, you know, our names were facing up, so we consider ourselves fortunate, lucky.

Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim flew to Kennedy aboard T-38s to begin four days of intense training known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test.

Ferguson and Hurley, who will be at the controls of space shuttle Atlantis during launch and landing, practiced touching down at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility, using the Shuttle Training Aircraft to simulate the shuttle's unique characteristics.

Day two saw the astronauts take turns driving one of the M113s that will be stationed near the launch complex when they lift off. In the unlikely event of an emergency, the astronauts would climb inside the M113 to drive away from danger.

The crew got an up-close look at Atlantis as it stood on Launch Pad 39A on the third day of TCDT. It included a detailed walkdown of the cargo bay where they saw their primary payload, the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, or MPLM. Rafaello will be loaded with experiments, equipment and supplies for the International Space Station. Once in orbit, the STS-135 astronauts will work with the station residents to unload the module and fill it up with concluded experiments and other items that are no longer needed on the station.

It's a pleasure to be here and right in front of the space shuttle just gives you goose bumps thinking that we're going to get to ride that in about two weeks.

The training is rich in tradition and history and the astronauts do not take its lessons for granted.

It's just a very comprehensive, hands-on, at the place you're going to do it kind of training and it's invaluable. You can do all the simulators in the world, but until you get in that real vehicle, touch the vehicle, see what you can reach, see the different switches, everything's just a little bit different when you're in the real vehicle. It's a great way to get you ready for launch day when it counts.

Their last day opened with a full dress rehearsal for launch day, targeted for July 8. The astronauts pulled on their launch-and-entry suits, took their seats aboard Atlantis' flight deck and ran through a countdown simulation.

We're just the tip of the iceberg of a huge group of people who plan and get the hardware ready and prepare our procedures and then watch over the vehicle when we're on board and we feel very, very strongly that we have to be prepared as possible to perform the mission to the extent that they're expecting of us and I think when it's all done, we can all celebrate together not only just the mission, but the whole program.

I think each of us feels a little perhaps extra burden to make sure we put on the best possible face forward for the last go-around of this and the crew's very prepared, we're going to go out and do a fantastic job and I think when it's all over, at the very end, I think that's when the enormity of it's going to hit us. That last wheelstop call is going to be a little tough.

After lunch and a review of the equipment they will use in space, Ferguson, Hurley, Magnus and Walheim boarded their jets and returned to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

They are to return July 4 for the final flight of the shuttle's 30-year history.

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