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Atlantis Crew Readies for STS-121


While millions of eyes are focused on the first Return to Flight mission, the next crew set to take Atlantis into space on STS-121 is already in the final stages of preparing for flight. As part of that preparation, the six crew members were at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida April 21 through 23 for their Crew Equipment Interface Test.

The astronauts of the second Return to Flight mission, STS-121, are shown at NASA's Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility. Image at Right: In the Orbiter Processing Facility, the STS-121 crew receives a briefing and up-close look at the Space Shuttle Atlantis. From left, facing the camera, are Mission Specialists Michael E. Fossum, Piers J. Sellers, and Lisa M. Nowak; Commander Steven W. Lindsey; Pilot Mark E. Kelly and Mission Specialist Stephanie D. Wilson. Image credit: NASA/KSC

The test, which each Space Shuttle crew undergoes before a mission, gave the astronauts an up-close look at the orbiter that will carry them into space on an 11-day mission this summer. Mission Commander Steven Lindsey and his crew spent most of their time in the Orbiter Processing Facility inspecting the vehicle, both inside and out. Space Shuttles are prepared for flight in this facility before being transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be joined to an External Tank and twin Solid Rocket Boosters.

"We're excited to be here at Kennedy." said Lindsey. "The level of activity on Atlantis is amazing, and I was very impressed with the dedication and level of commitment of KSC's workforce to provide us the best possible vehicle for our mission"

Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly and Mission Specialist Piers Sellers have flown on previous missions, while Mission Specialists Michael Fossum, Lisa Nowak and Stephanie Wilson will take their first trip into space on Atlantis. They all got a chance to check out the orbiter's crew module and payload bay, and review in-flight maintenance procedures during the test.

STS-121 Commander Steven W. Lindsey and Mission Specialist Lisa M. Nowak examine the wing leading edge of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Image at Left: STS-121 Commander Steven W. Lindsey and Mission Specialist Lisa M. Nowak examine the wing leading edge of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The leading edge of each of the orbiters’ wings has 22 Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panels, made entirely of carbon composite material. The molded components are approximately 0.25-inch to 0.5-inch thick. Image credit: NASA/KSC

This hands-on experience is vital to any Space Shuttle crew, helping them gain first-hand knowledge of the flight hardware they will use during their mission.

"Seeing Atlantis and learning about the equipment and tools we will work with during our mission means my dream of space travel is truly within reach," said rookie astronaut Lisa Nowak. "I'm ready to go tomorrow."

Atlantis, NASA's fourth orbiter, went into service with its first launch on Oct. 3, 1985, and has flown 26 previous missions. The orbiter received updated safety modifications during its preparation for STS-121, also designated (along with Discovery) as a Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station.

Mission Specialist Piers J. Sellers at the SPACEHAB facility in Cape Canaveral, Fl. Image at Right: At the SPACEHAB facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Mission Specialist Piers J. Sellers gets hands-on experience with equipment he will soon work with in space during the STS-121 mission to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA/KSC

In preparation for their trip to the Space Station, the crew members also visited SPACEHAB at Cape Canaveral and the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy, where equipment and payloads for the mission are being readied for flight.

The launch of the STS-121 mission is targeted for September.

Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

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