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By | February 26, 2007

      Atlantis Crew Whips Through Rehearsal

      Facing a scheduled March 15 liftoff, the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis sliced through a full launch dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., NASA announced.

      The prelaunch training ran the STS-117 mission astronauts through their paces as they practiced emergency evacuation procedures at the launch pad, checked out their flight gear, drove M-113 personnel carriers and attended safety and range briefings.

      As well, Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Lee Archambault flew their training jets to practice landing techniques, similar to landing the space shuttle.

      The highlight of the training came on the last day when the flight crew was transported to Launch Pad 39A in NASA’s silver “astrovan” and whisked up to the White Room. Technicians checked the crew’s flight suits and helped them into the orbiter where they rehearsed a simulated launch countdown and main engine cutoff exercise.

      Crew members left in T-38 jets from the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility for the trip back to Johnson Space Center in Houston.

      They’ll return to Kennedy a few days before the launch of mission STS-117 to the International Space Station.

      During the 11-day mission, the crew will install a new truss segment, retract a set of solar arrays and unfold a new set on the starboard side of the station. Lessons learned from two previous missions will provide the astronauts with new techniques and tools to perform their duties.

      Sturckow, a veteran of two shuttle missions (STS-88, STS-105), will command the crew, while Archambault will be making his first flight as shuttle pilot. Mission Specialists James Reilly (STS-89, STS-104) and Patrick Forrester (STS-105) will be returning to the station. Steven Swanson and John Olivas, both mission specialists, join the crew for their first flight into space.

      Space Station Crew Retracts Stuck Antenna During Spacewalk

      International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin retracted a stuck antenna on a cargo spacecraft during a 6- hour, 18-minute spacewalk.

      On Oct. 26, the antenna failed to retract when the Progress vehicle docked to the ISS Zvezda Service Module. Moving the antenna was necessary to ensure it would not interfere with the Progress undocking in April.

      Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin had planned to release the antenna latch with a punch and a hammer. When clearance issues prevented that, they cut struts supporting the antenna. That enabled them to retract the antenna partly and secure it with wire ties. They reported it had about six inches of clearance from Zvezda, adequate for undocking.

      Early in the spacewalk, Tyurin had problems with his spacesuit cooling system, which caused his visor to fog.

      But he and Lopez-Alegria were able to complete a number of other tasks. They began the spacewalk by photographing a Russian satellite navigation antenna and changing out a Russian materials experiment.

      They also inspected and photographed an antenna for the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The European cargo craft has more capacity than the Progress and is scheduled to make its first trip to the station later this year. The spacewalkers also photographed ATV docking targets.

      They photographed a German robotics experiment, inspected, remated and photographed hardware connectors and inspected retention mechanisms and bolted joints on a hand-operated Strela crane that helps transport people and equipment outside Pirs. They also stowed two foot restraints on a ladder at Pirs before ending the spacewalk.

      The spacewalk from the Pirs docking compartment was conducted in Russian Orlan spacesuits. It was the 81st for station assembly and maintenance, the 53rd from the station, the 20th from Pirs and the fifth for this station crew. This was the 10th spacewalk for Lopez-Alegria, a U.S. record, and the fifth for Tyurin.

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