Space Shuttle Endeavour Set to Launch; Ham to be Delivered to ISS
After lightning strikes and thunderstorms delayed the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour (STS 127) this past weekend, the spacecraft is set to launch at 6:03 PM on Wednesday, July 15. Endeavour's 16 day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will feature five planned spacewalks and complete the construction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Astronauts will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.
Endeavour will carry a crew of seven: Mark Polansky will serve as commander and Douglas Hurley will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are Christopher Cassidy, Thomas Marshburn, KE5HOC, David Wolf, KC5VPF, and Julie Payette, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut. The mission will deliver Timothy Kopra, KE5UDN, to the ISS as a flight engineer and science officer and return Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, KC5ZTA, to Earth. Hurley, Cassidy, Marshburn and Kopra will be making their first trips to space.
When Kopra arrives, there will six astronauts on board the ISS -- all but one are licensed radio amateurs: Commander Gennady Padalka, RN3DT; Flight Engineer Michael Barratt, KD5MIJ; Flight Engineer Frank DeWinne, ON1DWN; Flight Engineer Robert Thirsk, VA3CSA, and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko.
While on the ISS, Kopra will help conduct scientific experiments on human physiology. "We're going to look at all the different components that correspond to the human body and the effect that microgravity has on [astronauts]," he said in a NASA pre-flight interview. "It's very critical because, if we're going to spend time on the moon, which has less gravity than the Earth, or transporting to Mars, which could be a very long trip and then time on Mars, we need to understand with a lot of detail what those effects will be. So we'll be looking at the cardiovascular system, neurological system, vestibular system and we'll also be looking at some of the behavioral aspects of living in space. What happens to your sleep, for example: Can you sleep soundly, because over time you definitely need to have sound sleep to be an effective crew member? Those are some of the examples of the things we'll be looking at that correspond to the human physiology side."
Kopra said he expects to "have a lot of fun" while on board the ISS: "I just spoke with the [current ISS] crew members on board recently, and after they had only been there for a couple weeks, you could tell that they're just real excited about all the work that they do on board. It's just like you talk to a kid about what they would like to do on space station, they might tell you, 'Hey, I want to float around, I want to look out the window.' You know, I intend to do a lot of both of those just as my crew members like to do."
Kopra, a 1985 graduate of West Point and a colonel in the US Army, was assigned to NASA at the Johnson Space Center in September 1998 as a vehicle integration test engineer. In this position, he primarily served as an engineering liaison for space shuttle launch operations and ISS hardware testing. He was actively involved in the contractor tests of the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) interfaces for each of the space station truss segments.
Selected as an astronaut in July 2000, Kopra began his initial training the following month. He completed two years of intensive space shuttle, space station and T-38 flight training. He then served in the Space Station Branch of the Astronaut Office where his primary focus involved the testing of crew interfaces for two ISS pressurized modules, as well as the implementation of support computers and operational Local Area Network on ISS. After completing a Russian language immersion course in Moscow, Kopra began training for a long duration space flight mission in July 2005. Since then, he has completed training at each of the international partner training sites and served as a backup crewmember to Expeditions 16 and 17.
If Endeavour's Wednesday launch were to be postponed to Thursday, the shuttle crew would cancel the fifth spacewalk, said NASA launch integration manager Mike Moses. Showers and thunderstorms are possible Wednesday, but they may stay far enough inland to allow launch, NASA Launch Forecaster Scott McCormick. If Wednesday's launch is scrubbed, Thursday would be the next opportunity; however, showers and thunderstorms are expected in the launch area, and there is a 60 percent chance that weather would prevent a launch that day, McCormick said. If Endeavour isn't able to launch by Thursday, then Sunday, July 26 would be the next opportunity before trying again.
Kopra will return to Earth on space shuttle Discovery (STS 128), due to launch this August. That mission will bring mission specialist Nicole Stott, KE5GJN, to the ISS. Discovery will carry the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module containing life support racks and science racks, as well as the Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier. -- Information provided by NASA