STS-134 CREW WALKOUT at 5:11a.m. on May 16, 2011
We arrived at the KSC News Center at just after 3a.m. this morning. Within an hour, we had gone through the dog-sniffing security and were on the bus to the astronaut walkout, where we waited about an hour for the STS-134 crew to emerge.
The STS-134 mission is commanded by Mark Kelly, about whom we’ve written before. Kelly’s wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, is not among the Members of Congress listed among those attending today’s expected launch. California Representative Jim Costa is among the five Members of Congress who plan to view the launch here at KSC, and other VIPs include Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins (one of our favorite astronauts!), Irish Embassy official Catherine O’Connor, and Nobel Laureate and Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS, we’ll have a post on that soon) Principal Investigator Sam Ting.
The crew ate before they suited up. Mark Kelly, Greg Johnson, and Mike Fincke had lobster, though Kelly opted for a spinach salad and pear instead of a baked potato and salad. Roberto Vittori and Andrew Feustal, whose relatives (parents, perhaps) were in front of us in line at the KSC gift shop yesterday, feasted on pasta. Vittori’s was cooked al-dente and served with bread and extra virgin olive oil, whereas Feustal opted for pasta primavera with chicken strips. Greg Chamitoff had a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich with salt and vinegar chips, Greek nonfat yogurt, and a banana. We also grabbed a bite: bagels and Diet Coke, with oranges and snack bars planned for later this morning.
The crew looked especially happy this time out and into the Astrovan. They didn’t linger as long as the last time, the recent not-launch when they knew the engineers were working a problem. As we compose this post, the crew has been strapped into the orbiter, the orbiter access hatch is now closed, and the astronauts are checking various systems, including communications with Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The sun has now come up over the horizon behind Endeavour, and the News Center is buzzing. Anna tried on the glove of the EVA suit used for spacewalks that’s on display for press. We hope to do a couple of interviews with astronauts in a couple of hours. And we’re hoping that the cloud cover blows off. No matter how this goes, we’ll update again later. In the meantime, our final photo in this post features the first seven astronauts chosen by NASA for the Mercury program.