Guest blog: STS-134 nears launch date (again)

Posted by Karri Ferron
on Thursday, May 12, 2011

Prep for the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour continues in Titusville, Florida. The takeoff has been postponed several times since the original launch date of April 29, which was scrubbed because of an electrical short. Since then, NASA has overcome the problem by replacing parts and wires and retesting the whole system. Monday, May 16, 2011, is the date set for the next attempt to launch Endeavour for its last mission. In the meantime, Brenda Culbertson, an observational astronomer, astrophotographer, and outreach educator from Kansas, continues to seek interesting events to experience on behalf of Astronomy magazine. Today, she represented the magazine during the arrival of the six STS-134 astronauts to Kennedy Space Center.

STS-134 astronauts arrive at Kennedy Space Center May 12 to prepare for the May 16 launch of space shuttle Endeavour, its final mission. // All photos by Brenda Culbertson
People who have waited for the launch of Endeavour showed skepticism when the May 16 date was announced, but today, May 12, the doubts started to melt away. Early this morning, a few people reporting on STS-134 converged onto the media building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the chance to document the arrival of the six Endeavour astronauts: Mark Kelly, Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg H. Johnson, Roberto Vittori, and Greg Chamitoff. We were bussed to the tarmac at KSC, and, at 9 a.m. EDT, the astronauts arrived by plane and met us for a short greeting and photos.

Commander Kelly told us their families have not come here yet because the children are attending school and had missed much during the previous launch attempt. All six of the astronauts thanked everyone at KSC for working hard to make all of the launches successes, and for making this last Endeavour launch so memorable.

The STS-134 crew members, (from left) Commander Mark Kelly, Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff, Mission Specialist Andrew Feustel, European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori, Mission Specialist Mike Fincke, and Pilot Greg H. Johnson, greeted the media and answered a few questions upon arrival at Kennedy Space Center.
At 7 a.m. tomorrow, May 13, countdown begins for the May 16 launch, which is scheduled for 8:56 a.m. EDT. Also tomorrow at 10 a.m., NASA will hold a pre-countdown status briefing. The agency plans to announce any known changes at that time.

Not quite as many people are expected to show for the launch as did for the original launch date, but NASA still anticipates a massive amount of people. Traffic will likely be slow, hotels are expected to be full, and the shores around KSC will once again be packed.


Related guest blogs by Brenda Culbertson:

Witnessing an Atlas V launch

STS-134 — the last mission of space shuttle Endeavour


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