Posts Tagged ‘shuttle’

If you follow the 2,700 metal plates on the streets protecting the utilities for 12 miles from the northern side of LAX along the Pacific Coast Highway — along La Tijera and Manchester, Crenshaw and MLK, after 12 miles you wind up here — where a lot of metal plates cover the lawn beside the California Science Center and lead into this building.

Endeavour — is this your new home? Yes, but only for a couple of years when a grander home and tons of nifty exhibits will result in Endeavour being moved again and stood on end. Nonetheless, while waiting for its new digs, this is the metal box where she will reside and meet her admirers.


California Science Center & NASA’s Shuttle Endeavour, on Thursday October 11, 2012. Photo © 2012 Seine/Harbour™ Productions, LLC.

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Thursday, the Shuttle Eneavour flies from Houston to Biggs Army Base, Texas (re-fuel), and then spend the night at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour, atop the NASA 747-100, is easy for you to follow across the United States — simply go HERE, and then enter NASA905 as the flight number. The full tail number of the airplane which Endeavour is mated to N905NA. Enter only “NASA905”, however.

Here’s the route:

CLICK to ENLARGE // To track Endeavour as she flies across the United States go to flightaware.com, look midway down the left side of the home page and find this panel. You will find the flight like this: Enter “NASA905″in the “Flight#” panel. That’s all there is to it! :

(Kennedy Space Center, Florida, to Houston’s Ellington Air Force Base — September 19);

(then Houston/Ellington to Biggs Army Airfield/El Paso (re-fuel) to Edwards/Dryden,California — September 20).

(THEN Edwards/Dryden north to Northern California and south landing at LAX between 11 am and Noon — September 21).

Here’s how to track her:

First — go to the link above which will take you to FlightAware — ( http://www.flightaware,com )

Then — find the panel halfway down the lefthand side of the FlightAware home page that looks like the panel directly to your left here. Under “Private Flight Tracker” enter the “Flight/Tail#” — “NASA905”.


This assumes previous flight numbers and designations remain the same for this flight. Don’t egg my house if it proves not to be the case — but it sure ought to be.


And, beow are maps of LAX. The 747/Endeavour will land on the southern runway paralleling the Imperial Highway at the terminus of Freeway 105 and likely approach, as most aircraft do when landing at LAX, from east, landing to the west toward the Pacific Ocean. Expect it to stop about three-quarters of the way down the runway. Great views of her to the east will be possible for a wide swatch of Los Angeles along the 105.

Note, however: That Mother-of-all-LAX-Planespotting — at the In-n-Out Burger on Sepulveda at the end of the northernmost easternmost end of the runway — will be worthless since the shuttle will be approaching and landing far away to the south.

At the Sepulveda location planes dip almost directly over your head which makes it a great place, especially since the landing lights straddle Sepulveda.

On the other hand, If you’re not expecting it, you might swallow your entire burger and fries in a single gulp when the first one rumbles over you.

At the peak hours as many as 10 planes can land adjacent to you as you sit in line waiting at In-n-Out to get your burgers.

LAX courtesy of Google maps. NASA905 will likely land east to west (right to left) rolling to a stop about 3/4 down the southernmost (bottom) runway. Watching her land from Imperial Highway will be a cinch. Even better would be if you were checked into one of the rooms at the Embassy Suites midway down the runway. No surprise. The hotel is completely booked.


LAX as it is known to pilots and the FAA. The 747 will spend Thursday night at Dryden/Edwards (high desert north of Palmdale), then head to Northern California before landing at LAX between 11am and Noon. Endeavour will go through the streets of LA on October 12/13, and is expected to open for public viewing at the California Science Center on October 30.

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On September 14, 2012, the Shuttle Endeavour was rolled from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the Shuttle Landing Facility (runway) and mated piggyback to NASA’s 707-100 for its ride to Los Angeles beginning Monday morning, September 17, 2012. The Media had to be at the media site by 3:30 am. This picture was taken shortly after the Endeavour had been rolled out of the VAB at 5:15 am.


Endeavour was towed to the mating device on right. The towing took less than two hours. The Mating Crew arrived at 7 am. This was the final time a shuttle would be mated to a NASA 747-100. The 747, which arrived in Florida earlier in the week, was parking on the tarmac, just out of view to the left.


Once in the mating device, the Endeavour is attached a slings (yellow). First the nose is lifted, as shown in this picture, then the entire shuttle is raised allowing the 747 to drive in underneath the shuttle. Endeavour is the second of the surviving three NASA shuttles to be sent to a museum. Each shuttle weighs a somewhat different amount. Endeavour, after prepping for the California Science Center, is the lightest of the three. It weighs 155 tons.


Piggybacking a shuttle to a 747 is an exacting business. NASA officials advised that this final mating would take about 12 hours, similar to the lift-to-mate process when the shuttles were placing on the crawler/transporters in the VAB (see photos of that process elsewhere in this Blog). Weather hastened the process on September 12, 2012, however. Endeavour was rolled out of the VAB at 5 am, and loosely secured to the 747 by 1:30 pm. Final tightening down of Endeavour onto the back of the 747 was left to the following day, September 15, 2012.


Once the shuttle is secured to the straps, it is lifted and the 747 is towed into the mating device directly under the shuttle. Crews then slowly lower the shuttle onto the 747’s back. This mating of shuttle with the NASA 747-100s was used for more than 35 years without mishap from the beginning of flight tests of the shuttles in the mid-1970s through this final mating.


The mating is complete. Once the shuttle is completely secured to the 747, a process that was completed the following day, the 747 with shuttle attached was scheduled to be backed out of the mating device early Sunday morning, September 16, 2012. Then, the following morning, the 747 was scheduled to depart Kennedy Space Center at first light, circling KSC and nearby beaches in a final good-bye. Then Endeavour and the 747 headed west, first overflying NASA’s Stennis facility in Mississippi (where the shuttle main engines are now stored) and landing at Ellington AFB south of Houston. The following days Endeavour would fly to El Paso, Edwards Air Force Base, California, and overfly northern California before landing at Los Angeles International Airport on September 20, 2012 (if all goes well).


Flow Manager Stephanie Stilson (right) talks to a media representative with the 747-100 in the background. Ms. Stilson has been a flow manager overseeing preparation of the shuttles for space for 12 years, and has overseen the preparation of all three shuttles for the museums. With Endeavour going to Los Angeles, only Atlantis remains at KSC. Atlantis is scheduled to go to the KSC Visitors Center on November 2, 2012. Then Ms. Stilson will spend a year at NASA headquarters on a different project beginning in December.

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One of three engines in lifted and reinstalled in Discover the morning of December 5, 2011. The engines are not the actual engines that flew on Discovery although they look the same.

December 5, 2011 … today the first of the three engines of the Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) was reinstalled on the shuttle. It took about four hours. The other two engines were to be installed later in the week. Discovery will go to the Smithsonian at Dulles Airport, Washington, DC. She is expected to be sent there in April 2012.

Discovery by several estimates is now about 85-percent ready for the museum. In a few weeks she will be entirely ready and then they will figure out how to get her to Washington. Almost certainly she will be flown there on the back of a 747. Shuttles were returned to Florida on the back of one of two NASA Boeing 747s when they landed somewhere else besides Florida.

Discovery is expected to weigh about two-thirds of her fully tricked out flying weight of 190-tons because of all that has been removed from her. The 190-tons was base weight, without payload.

Engine which is about to be placed back into Engine Slot #1 on the Shuttle Discovery.


Rear of the Shuttle Discovery from high in OPF-1 (Orbiter Processing Facility #1). There were three OPFs — only two remain now that OPF-3 have been turned over to Boeing. A total of five operational shuttles were built, but because NASA never had more than four at any one time, only three OPFs were needed — one for three of the shuttles, while the fourth shuttle was either in orbit, or in the VAB or on the pad preparing for flight.


The engine being replaced is in the center of the picture. The back of the shuttle is on the left. The bay doors of OPF-1 are on the right. OPF-1 is just a few yards from the Vehicle Assembly Building. OPF-2 is beside it, and OPF-3 is across the street.


The tail of the shuttle Discovery is in top center of this photo. The engine, still on the carrier, is in the center of this photograph.


This panel is on the starboard side, rear, of the shuttle and opens into the back end of the shuttle. Here assistants can help in the installation of the shuttle engines or in their removal.


This is inside the rear of the shuttle. To the upper left the engine is being installed. A man, with his hand holding onto a railing, is seen in the center left of this picture.


The engine is nearly installed. This picture was taken a moment after my photograph inside the rear of the shuttle was taken. A white room, where booties are required on feet, and id cards must be surrendered, is adjacent where the cargo bay of the shuttle is located. No one is allowed into OFP-1 with cell phones or any device, such as remote car door openers, which emit an electrical signal.


This is the cargo bay of the Shuttle Discovery looking toward the front of the shuttle. We are on the starboard side looking toward the port side. With the shuttle program over, few reporters or photographers show up for NASA events. Only 178 registered for the November launch of the Mars Science Laboratory launch. Less than ten expressed interest in spending half a day in OPF-1 watching the engines be replaced — and only 5 photographers and reporters actually showed up.


The media was given wide access to the shuttle, although they could not step on board. Here Pete Crow lies on his back under the front nose wheel of the shuttle and photographs the underside of the shuttle looking backward toward the tail. And, yes, those are his feet on the bottom right of the picture to give size perspective to this photograph.


A conference room sits just off the back rear of the shuttle near the large entry doors.


Entry to the OPFs is tightly controlled. Without a card, you can neither enter nor leave without triggering alarms. As you enter the OPF you are facing a desk where access is further controlled. Moreover, at strategic places, people sit with desks monitoring what tools are passing various points, logging them — and workers — in and out. Foreign objects inadvertently left on board the shuttle could have been fatal in space. This is a side view of the entry point desk. The shuttle is on our left, and the conference room (above) is on our right.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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And so the Launch Day (L-0) day begins. I have skipped coming to the Cape on L-1, Thursday, July 7, 2011, because of the rain and because what we wanted to see — the press conferences — were on NASA-TV. We could sit in our kitchen, eat with feet propped. Another reason to skip L-1 was because I had been over to the Cape for three straight days — and this was coming off of two days in Houston at Johnson Space Center last week.

Two Canadian journalists walk in front of the countdown clock about 2:30 am, Friday, July 8, 2011. Like many journalists they paid their way, and drove more than a day to get to the Cape. If the shuttle failed to launch on Friday, they might be able to stay Saturday, but by Sunday they would have to begin their long trek home. The space program is a beacon to young journalists like these kids, and to youth in general. The tiny dot on the far right is Pad 39A and the Shuttle Atlantis..

I was tired. Carol Anne was exhausted, and even skipped L-2 (Wednesday).

By skipping L-1 we did miss the restraction of the Rotating Service Structure, but early in the afternoon we got a call from a friend at the Cape asking us if we planned to miss the driving rain and mud out at Pad 39-A. Unn, the answer was Yes.

I noticed, in going through my notes for the recent launches, that I had also skipped L-1 during the STS-134 launch in May. Must have been tired for that one, too.

11 pm, July 7, 2011 — To the Cape. Carol Anne and I had decided to coast over to the Cape starting at 11 pm. That should put us inside the security bubble by 12:15 am if traffic was minimal as we expected it would be. The unknown factor was how many people would be streaming over hoping to find spots to view the launch outside of KSC. We were betting that in the rain the 1-million expected people would be in no hurry — and we were right.

Traffic on the Beachline, Highway 528, was moving at its accustomed 75-80 miles an hour, complete with the usual tailgaters.

The JSC press crew doesn't always love the Tweeters like I do. For the second attempt to launch on STS-134 the Tweet tent vanished. This time Tweeters autos have been banished to a far away parking lot. No matter -- the Tweeters are also enthusiastic and are one-timers (they do not get to come back a second time). There are only 150 of them and I'm looking for them. It's 3 o'clock in the morning and none are anywhere to be seen. Do you know where your Tweeter is? I don't.

Inside the security bubble, 12:15 am, Friday, July 8, 2011. We wanted to be at the media site by the time the decision was made on tanking. This was the crucial decision — unless they tanked, the mission was scrubbed, but I was sure they would tank and, right on, at 2:01 am they began tanking.

The Tweeters had been banned from the media parking lot and must trudge better part of a half mile to their tent. Good for us, and great for finding a parking spot in the media parking lot. Not so good for the Tweeters, especially if it rains.

By the time we were at the Cape the rain, driving at times throughout Thursday, had abated to a sprinkle. At the media parking lot we were waved through and found a spot in the front row. Carol Anne objected because she planned to sleep, but then re-thought it and decided front row, closest to the media center, was all good especially if it rained. The car stayed in the front row.

The media center, 12:45 am. The media center is deserted with only a skeleton public relations crew. Carol Anne and I walk across the street to the cafeteria taking advantage of a break in the rain. The selection is thin, but we get coffee — something which, inexplicably, the canteen wagon which will show up about 3 am never has.

As we walk back rain begins again. Carol Anne vanishes to sleep in the car and asks me to tell her if the tanking and the mission are scrubbed. “If the mission is scrubbed,” I grumble, “we’re going home. You can figure it out if the car starts moving.”

Clearly more sleep and less coffee is in order. I apologize.

Carol Anne sleeps and the mission is not scrubbed.

3:20 am, the press site.I drift the press site out to the Tweetup tent looking for Tweeters. No luck. I find three young kids from Canada covering their first shuttle launch. They’re pumped. I love their enthusiasm. We swap stories about Los Angeles where one of them lived.

The only action at the Tweetup Tent at 3 am was the Spacevidcast. I think I should know who they are and what they do, but fact is I don't and they were busy broadcasting to godknowswho and taking phone calls. So I waded on through the wet grass and occasional mud, stepping over cables and watching out for nearly invisible ropes.

The Tweetup tent is empty but there’s a broadcast going on just outside the front door. I cannot figure out who they are, and no one seems interested in telling me. I drift on.

It is dark and muddy out here. Cables snake everywhere. Normally I cut across areas, but now I find there are even ropes tied to nearly invisible posts. Dangerous. I decide for one of the few times in my life to obey the rules. I follow the road and the signs and while it takes longer to get back to the media center, I arrive alive.

Androlly. We may be inside the bubble, but son Andrew and his son-to-be wife, Molly,are not going to be. I call them Androlly because they are, in their words, “inside the love bubble” and can be considered, for now, a single entity. However, Carol Anne does not entirely approve. I also have taken to calling our two granddaughters, age 6 and 8, whose last name is “Dagner”, “The Dagnets”. Again, there is not rousing approval.

Andrew and Molly earlier had planned to drive overnight from northern Florida where they both work, and then to bunk at our home in Celebration for the weekend.

But, of course, the Friday launch is so iffy that an all night drive after working all week long.

It is now almost 3:30 am and while they are not exactly missing in action, they are out there somewhere in the dark and we’re not quite sure where.

All sorts of memorabilia are for sale in a small wagon that is always parked in the parking lot, but is rarely open. Long before dawn members of the press were lining up. Another shop selling STS-135 merchandise was located adjacent to the cafeteria. Also, companies like Boeing handed out pins, stickers and notebooks at their desk in the media center. Just drift by and ask.

Wait — here’s an idea! Maybe someone should just call them.

They have stayed in Tallahassee — worked late, read the weather reports and figured it would be a no-go. They’ll be here Sunday if they are right.

4:30 am, Media Press Site. I grow weary of working on revisions in a screenplay, and decide to stretch. In a few moments I am outside gazing at the huge assembly of media trucks in the parking lot and now covering the old site of the Grandstand which was destroyed in a hurricane in 2004.

I grow nostalgic realizing that my time at the Cape and at this media site are coming to an end. I have been covering events here since the final Apollo flight, Apollo 17, in December 1972 — before most people covering STS-135 were born.

I will be here only once more — for the landing of the Atlantis in a couple of weeks. And then, in all likelihood, my visits to the press site, and indeed the use of the press site itself, are likely to be rare.

What really will not happen again is the assemblage of media here this morning. It rivals that first launch I covered, Apollo 17, when 2,200 were accredited. For STS-135 there are probably 3,000, plus another 150 Tweeters.

Nothing that NASA has in the pipeline will be-stir media interest like this again for at least a decade — and perhaps, going the way NASA is going, never again.

4:55 am The Annex. I was exiled to the dreaded Annex during STS-134, the previous launch.

When too many media request workspace, NASA/KSC has a backup building called The Annex. During STS-134 I was exiled to the Annex which has great air conditioning, but feels remote.

I always have work space in the main media center and until STS-134 I had never heard of “The Annex.” Then arriving to cover STS-134 in April 2011, I found myself in it, facing some nice German guy and sitting beside other well-meaning foreign journalists who spoke no English but smiled a lot.

It was not that the Annex was bad workspace — it was actually very good workspace.

But reporting from the Annex was like trying to cover the launch from Bulgaria.

The main media center is alive, throbbing with activitiy and I could learn things there by eavesdropping, something that I, like most journalists, excel at and take pride in.

A woman primps before going on the air in one of the many setups for TV lining the edge of the press site.

Well. There was no one and nothing to eavesdrop on in the Annex unless you spoke Farci. The best thing about that well-turned out dump was it had great air conditioning.

I was curious to see how the Annex was faring during STS-135, and wanted to know who’d managed to get themselves shipped out there — so I stopped by.

The Annex was, as expected, rumpled at 5 am with a guy sleeping on four chairs.

I drifted around and was stunned to find such organizations as UPI stuck in the back row. The rest was to be expected — the usual gaggle of TV stations from places like Honolulu and foreign media from countries I’d never heard of.

5:10 am The canteen wagon. Buried in the parking I see a glow that doesn’t quite look like other satellite trucks. The canteen wagon was supposed to arrive about 3 pm, but it is usually parked behind the media center, and this morning it is no where to be seen.

The Snack Mobile actually had coffeee. it never does. But the Snack Mobile got a new, hard to find spot out in the parking lot instead of just behind the media center. Nonetheless, enough people found it fast enough to drink all the coffee. So, then, the Snack Mobile didn't have coffee. Situation Normal.

I decide to investigate since I’m roaming around aimlessly anyway. Lo and behold, it is the canteen, but since they never have coffee I figure I won’t be interested.

Entry to the wagon is from the back, exiting past the driver who is the cashier. I lean into the front door and ask if she has coffee.


“Really?” They never have coffee.


I go inside and find I am standing behind two foreign journalists who are having trouble filling the coffee cups, finding lids, finding the sugar — hell, maybe finding their zippers. Time passes. They continue to dither about one thing and another. They decide to allow me to pass and to get my coffee, so I do. But now they are in front of where the coffee lids are, and they are dithering again.

I smile. They smile. The woman running the canteen smiles.

Eventually I escape with my coffee which, remarkably, is still hot.
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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Tanking begins. Candrea Thomas, NASA public affairs office, told media gathered at the press center at 1:50 am that the decision had been made to begin tanking the Atlantis at 2:01 am. Tanking normally tanks several hours.

Shuttle Atlantis at Pad 39-A, Kennedy Space Center, 2 am, July 8, 2011, at the moment when the countdown clock was restarted at T-6 hours. There are a series of built-in holds in the launch schedule. Although the countdown clock shows 6 hours to launch, launch is actually more than 9 hours away. - photograph Courtesy of NASA TV

This is one of the last significant steps in preparing the shuttle for launch.

Chances of weather allowing launch at 11:26 am EDT remained only 30-percent, Ms. Thomas added.

The Friday, July 8, 2011 launch window is 3 minutes and 18 seconds from 11:31:46 am EDT to 11:35:04 am.

Weather throughout the week had deterioirated until by Friday, chances of launch were rated by Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer, at only 30-percent. Nonetheless, it is policy of the NASA launch teams to continue to move forward, weather and mechanicals permitting.

Sometimes it pays off. Shuttles have been launched in a 90-percent no-go weather window when weather cleared briefly and sufficiently to permit launch. But mostly it doesn’t work out.

If the shuttle is not launched on Friday, betting is that NASA will skip the Saturday window and try to launch again on Sunday. Getting its launch crew home and back, with sufficient time to rest, through roads expected to be crowded by about 1-million people will likely prove impossible.

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Go fly! … here’s where, hopefuly, it will happen Friday morning.

Here’s a quick visit to Firing Room #4 from where STS-135 will be launched, and from which the previous 20 shuttle missions, have been launched. At lift-off, control of the shuttle immediately passes from the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, to the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center, Houston.

NASA has four firing rooms in the Launch Control Center. The most modern is Firing Room #4 where all recent launches have been conducted. This view is toward the back wall of the Firing Room. The large windows are directly behind us.


On the right are the windows, and in the middle and left are the consoles. Those working at consoles, including the Flight Director, all sit with their backs to the windows and never see the actual launch. A VIP room is beyond the glassed in area in upper center of this photograph. The VIP room is between Firing Rooms 3 and 4.


The view from Firing Room #4 of the launch pads, 39A (right) and 39B. Pad 39B (B has been torn down; not A) has been torn down.


The Launch Control Center (LCC) sits just to the left of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Alongside the VAB its appears low and flat. The LCC is just across the road from the media press site (out of view further on left). Firing Room #4 is behind the windows on the far left. Firing Rooms 2 and 3 are behind the larger center window. Firing Room #1 is on the right hand side of the LCC.


This is Firing Room #3. Firing Room #3 launched many of the earlier KSC launches, including shuttle flights, and several of the Apollo Moon missions. In contrast to the sleekly modern Firing Room #4, Firing Room #3 has a distinctly 1960s Buck Rogers charm.


Before each launch the children of the astronauts make a white board wishing the astronauts well. These white boards are preserved and displayed at different places at KSC. This whiteboard, from STS-107, hangs in the central foyer of the Launch Control Center. After each launch, the NASA launch team gathers here and dines.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Atlantis covered by the RSS at Pad 39-A, dawn, July 6, 2011.

Wednesday was briefing day. From 8:15 am to 7 pm the media was offered briefings on everything from how NASA is studying air traffic control, running high tech medical experiments on the International Space Station, planning to place an innovative device on the ISS to re-fuel satellites and much more.

The day concluded with visits to SpaceX’s launch pad, hangar and firing room. SpaceX hopes to be allowed to re-supply the ISS beginning later in 2011, and by 2014 hopes to be running a manned space program. NASA is helping with contracts, by making available an old Titan launch pad and finding buildings near the entrance to Patrick Air Force Base for its firing room.

The media has arrived. By Wednesday the media site was jammed, straining its air conditioning. Outside, displays from companies were scattered in tents.

Tweeters will be back (Thursday, July 7), and so will their tent, grandstand and even that faux spacesuit that they can stand inside and have their pictures taken. All had vanished after the first attempt to launch STS-134 failed on April 29, 2011.

Everything was in place to go — except questions about the weather.

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Best VIEWING Places
NASA’s best viewing places

Mission Summary
NASA online STS-135 Mission Summary HERE

Other Mission Vitae

STS-135 scheduled to Launch Shuttle Atlantis 11:26 am (preferred launch time) on July 8, 2011 — final launch in the shuttle program.

STS-135 scheduled for 12 day mission ending at 7:06 am, July 20, 2011.

This shuttle may be launched later, but will not be launched earlier than this date. The shuttle will not land earlier than the landing time, and may, even if launched on time, be unable to land until later orbits, and even may be unable to land in Florida.

Additionally, NASA wants to add an entire day to the mission which may be possible if the Atlantis is launched on time. If the launch is delayed the consumables on board likely will make the one-day extension impossible.

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Looking for good news about weather on July 8, 2011? Ms. Kathy Winters, Shuttle Weather Officer, predicted a small chance that weather would allow a Friday launch.

As early as Monday, July 4, anyone looking at the long range weather schedule had doubts that NASA would be able to launch Atlantis on Friday morning, July 8, 2011.

By Tuesday, the chances of launching remained at 60-percent, according to Kathy Winter, NASA’s weather officer who heads a team of 40 at KSC. Not good, not bad.

By Wednesday morning, July 6, 2011, when NASA held a Prelaunch Press Conference at the media site at the Kennedy Space Center, Ms Winters was rating the chance of favorable weather at a measly 30-percent. The other members of the launch team, Mike Moses, Mission Management Team chairman and Shuttle Launch Integration manager, and Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director, considered the shuttle ready to go. “Clear tracks to lift off.”

Except for the weather. A big “except”, indeed.

By Wednesday, Mr. Leinbach and Mr. Moses were waxing philosophical. “I’m feeling good about Friday,” Mr. Moses said. “It could be raining everywhere, but if we’ve got a hole and a 20-mile radius, we’re going.” That’s a big “if”.

“Typical July,” Ms. Winters added.

Would they tank the shuttle if the weather was iffy? Tanking begins about ten hours before launch. “We’ve tanked with a 90-percent no-go, and launched,” Mr. Moses said. “We’ve tanked with an 80-percent go, and been unable to launch.”

So … will the weather cooperate? Will Atlantis arc skyward in its narrow launch window on Friday morning, July 8?

Don’t bet on it. The weather briefing at 1 am Friday morning, when tanking is scheduled to begin, will be the next significant marker deciding whether the Atlantis goes on Friday or not.

Stay tuned.

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