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NASA Gives Green Light For Space Shuttle Flight

The Endeavour crew includes Barbara Morgan, a 55-year-old a career elementary school teacher who will become the first teacher into space.

Northwestern science project space bound
Evanston IL Aug 07 (UPI) -- A Northwestern University science experiment will be aboard space shuttle Endeavor when it lifts off for the International Space Station. More than 20 years since its conception, the materials science experiment is crafted to help improve the design of a variety of materials, from steels to aluminum alloys. Professor Peter Voorhees began working on the project with NASA in 1986 while a postdoctoral researcher. He said the success of his first two experiments convinced NASA to fly the current experiment to the International Space Station. Endeavor is scheduled for launch on Wednesday. Voorhees says his goal is to better understand the fundamental science of coarsening -- a process that occurs in nearly every material composed of two crystals, such as the high-temperature metal alloys used in jet engine turbine blades. Earth-based coarsening experiments are problematic because of the effects of gravity. Voorhees hopes his experiment, to be conducted in the space station's low-gravity, will shed additional light on the coarsening process.
by Jean-Louis Santini
Washington DC (AFP) Aug 08, 2007
NASA on Monday gave the final green light to a space shuttle launch planned for Wednesday, an event the US space agency hopes will help the public forget recent stories of drunk and lovesick astronauts. The National Aeronautics and Space Agency has already started the countdown for shuttle Endeavour's launch, scheduled for 6:36 pm (2236 GMT) Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. "The flight crew is down here, well-trained and ready to go fly," said space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale. "Based on the review that we had today, we're ready to go fly in two days."

Cape Canaveral meteorologist Kathy Winters forecast the likelihood of good weather for Wednesday's launch window.

"Currently, there's only a 30 percent chance that isolated showers or anvil clouds could prevent launch," she said, adding that the same forecast extended to Thursday in case of a 24-hour launch delay.

NASA hopes the second shuttle flight this year will help cure a media hangover from reports of astronauts drinking on the job and the sabotage of a computer by a NASA contractor employee.

Both revelations last month -- and the case earlier this year of astronaut Lisa Nowak allegedly trying to kidnap a rival who was dating another astronaut -- dealt a blow to the professional, disciplined image the high-profile US space agency tries to maintain.

But NASA wants the focus back on its ambitious space exploration mission, as it rushes to complete construction of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 with a dozen shuttle missions.

The Endeavour crew includes Barbara Morgan, a 55-year-old a career elementary school teacher who will become the first teacher into space.

She will carry on for Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died when the Challenger shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986.

The team of seven astronauts, including mission commander Scott Kelly and co-pilot Charlie Hobaugh, arrived Friday at the Kennedy Space Center from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The mission will transport a truss section about the size of a small car, weighing 1.58 tonnes, to extend the space station to a length of 108 meters (354 feet).

The astronauts will also replace a defective gyroscope, one of four keeping the space station on an even keel, and will install a 3.3 tonne exterior stowage platform.

Endeavour, on the 22nd shuttle mission to the space station, will also carry in its cargo bay a pressurized container with 2.7 tonnes of supplies, foodstuffs and equipment.

Three spacewalks, lasting about six hours and 30 minutes each, will allow the two-astronaut teams to accomplish assembly and repair tasks during the 11-day mission.

However, NASA could prolong the mission by three days to include a fourth space walk, to prepare for installation of a boom that will allow crews to inspect the heat shields of future shuttles for damage while docked with the space station.

NASA has been leery of damage to shuttle heat shields since February 2003, when a broken thermal tile on the Columbia shuttle allowed superheated gases to enter its wing on re-entry, causing the shuttle to break up and killing its crew of seven.

The disaster put the shuttle program on hold for two-and-a-half years.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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NASA Develops Wireless Tile Scanner For Space Shuttle Inspection
Moffett Field, CA (SPX) Aug 08, 2007
A new space shuttle tile inspection method using NASA-built, wireless scanners is replacing manual inspection. The new process begins with the upcoming shuttle mission, STS-118. Endeavour is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 6:36 p.m. EDT. Technicians have been using six new scanners to look for cracks and other imperfections in some of the 24,000 tiles that cover space shuttle Endeavour.

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