CAPE CANAVERAL – The crew who will fly on the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour, NASA’s youngest orbiter, arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 5:15 p.m. EDT (slightly ahead of schedule and ahead of a weather front) to conduct the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). This roughly week-long exercise trains the astronauts in launch-related elements that they will need to be aware of during launch.
Arriving in their T-38s – the crew’s commander, Mark Kelly, arrived last and made brief comments regarding the upcoming flight. The STS-134 mission is the next-to-last flight of the shuttle program.
The STS-134 commander, Mark Kelly, was not present for the entire training cycle for this mission due to the shootings in Tucson, Arizona that saw his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords seriously injured. Kelly took some time off to be with her. During this time, Rick Sturckow was assigned as a backup commander for the flight.
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Kelly eventually rejoined his crew as they prepared for the mission. This was because of the rapidly approving condition of his wife. He attributed this to some of the misfortune that befell space shuttle Discovery as she was prepared for her final flight. Discovery had several mechanical issues that needed to be addressed before the orbiter was cleared for its Feb. 24 launch.
“The timing of the incident coincided with the launch slip (of STS-133, Discovery’s last flight),” said Commander Mark Kelly. “When I rejoined the crew, I really had not missed that much training and managed to integrate myself fairly well back into the flow.”
The crew for this mission consists of Kelly as the flight’s commander, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists, Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and ESA astronaut (but under the Italian Space Agency for this mission) Roberto Vittori.
Weather played a big part during this TCDT. It determined that the crew arrived early; it also required that the crew hold one of the scheduled press conferences indoors (it was originally planned to have it at the launch pad) and it cut short the flight time that the commander and pilot had in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA).
Severe storms blew into Space Coast area shortly after the crew arrived. Launch Complex 39A, with Endeavour on it, was caught as the powerful, but brief storm passed by. NASA engineers thoroughly reviewed the orbiter and determined that there was minimal, if any, damage.