Hello and Welcome from the Kennedy Space Center. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is on the pad – pointed in the right direction – marching toward what will likely be her last mission. The crew of 6 – led by commander Ken Ham is headed to the international space station to deliver some supplies, replace some solar array batteries and install a new satellite dish. The shuttle was cleared to fly after a smooth flight readiness review – the team focused a fair amount of time on some ceramic inserts that hold window frames – one of them fell off during the last descent – of Discovery in April. The fix: a thicker braided chord designed to keep the insert from unscrewing. Interestingly, Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon said there was no talk about it being the last flight for Atlantis:
The tone of the meeting was extremely positive. Nobody mentioned, we weren’t purposely avoiding it, but nobody mentioned this was Atlantis’ last planned flight. It’s just folks are so focused on doing thier jobs, and they are performing with such pride all the way to the end, that it’s just normal business. The team is very mature, looking a the data, looking and things they can do, you know might ask did you really have to go and replace all of the braided cord on all of these plugs which have performed pretty well in the past, and the answer is we thing we can make it better, and because we can make it better we’re going to go do it. That’s the kind of attitude this team has. They are such an asset to human spaceflight, and I just couldn’t be more proud of them.
In fact here in Florida – Launch Director Mike Leinbach says the shuttle team is moving through the stages of grief:
Let’s take ourselves back in time, maybe a year or 18 months or so, when we were talking about the end of the program, and a lot of people didn’t believe it, and were in denial. Thought, heck, the program can’t end, we are going to fly forever. Well now we know that’s not the case. The program will end. People have absolutely come to grips with that, when I talk to folks on the floor of the processing facilities, and I’m sure it was the same in Utah, they know the end is coming and they are making their plans. And so we’ve gotten past the denial stage of change, and we are into the exploration and acceptance of change. And that’s good…that’s very healthy for people to go through that process. And we are there. Again, it does not change the way they work on the vehicle, it’s just their mental capacity have accepted the fact that the program is going to end, and they need to make plans for the future.
Atlantis is slated to launch Friday at at 2:20pm here – 1620 GMT. Our live webcast on Spaceflight Now begins at 9:30- 1330 GMT.