STS-122 crew in practice countdown
ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts and their fellow STS-122 crewmembers are currently at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, taking part in a practice countdown ahead of their mission to deliver the European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station in December.
The practice countdown, or Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT), is considered a key training exercise both for the astronauts and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch team. The exercise gives engineers an opportunity to run through the preparations leading up to a Shuttle launch. It also serves as a launch-day dress rehearsal for the astronauts.
The STS-122 mission crew arrived at KSC late on Saturday 17 November. During their first day of training on Sunday, the crew was familiarised with the M-113 armoured personnel carrier which is used to evacuate the crew from the launch pad in the case of fire.
On Monday the crew visited Launch Pad 39A where Space Shuttle Atlantis stands ready for launch. At the top of the launch pad they practiced getting into the slidewire baskets, which would carry the crew away from the pad during an emergency.
As the final exercise in the TCDT the crew donned their orange partial-pressure suits and entered Atlantis for a simulation of the launch countdown.
The STS-122 crew is joined for the TCDT by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, who is acting as back-up for Eyharts. Eyharts is set to remain on the ISS for two months as a member of the Expedition 16 crew to oversee the in-orbit commissioning of Columbus and its experimental facilities.
The European Columbus laboratory is the cornerstone of ESA’s contribution to the ISS and the first European laboratory dedicated to long-term research in space. Columbus will be carried into orbit in the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission, targeted for launch on 6 December 2007.
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