NASA announced the names of the four astronauts who will make up the crew of STS-335, the rescue mission that would fly only if there is a problem with the current final scheduled shuttle flight, Endeavour’s STS-134 mission. Additionally, the four crew members will prepare for the “final final” shuttle flight which may be added to the launch manifest, depending on what Congress decides on adding one more mission since Atlantis will be ready to fly.
“These astronauts will begin training immediately as a rescue crew as well as in the baseline requirements that would be needed to fly an additional shuttle flight,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations. “The normal training template for a shuttle crew is about one year prior to launch, so we need to begin training now in order to maintain the flexibility of flying a rescue mission if needed, or alter course and fly an additional shuttle mission if that decision is made.”
Having a “Launch On Need” crew ready for a rescue flight is based on recommendations made after the loss of space shuttle Columbia in February 2003. NASA has trained a launch on need crew to be ready to fly in the event of irreparable damage to a shuttle while in orbit. Typically, the next crew to fly serves as the rescue crew for the current mission.
The four astronauts are:
Chris Ferguson, a retired U.S. Navy captain and veteran of two previous shuttle missions, would command the flight. Astronaut and U.S. Marine Col. Doug Hurley would serve as pilot, and astronauts Sandy Magnus and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rex Walheim would be the mission specialists.
If required, the STS-335 rescue mission would launch on shuttle Atlantis in June 2011 to bring home the STS-134 crew from the International Space Station. STS-134 currently is scheduled to lift off on Feb. 26, 2011, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If converted to an additional shuttle flight, STS-335 would be redesignated STS-135 and targeted to launch in June 2011.