Saturday, March 8, 2008

Endeavour STS-123 Status report - 2008 - 03 - 08 03:15 CST


Posted: 3:15 AM, 3/8/08

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Analyst

Changes and additions:

SR-05 (03/08/08): Astronauts arrive for launch; countdown begins


3:15 AM, 3/8/08, Update: Astronauts arrive for launch; countdown begins

Delayed by heavy rain, the shuttle Endeavour's crew arrived at the Kennedy Space Center early Saturday for the start of the countdown to launch Tuesday on a 16-day space station assembly mission. Commander Dom Gorie, standing with his crewmates on the rain-soaked shuttle runway, spoke briefly to waiting reporters.

"Good evening. Thank you all for coming out and welcoming us here in this wonderful weather we've got," Gorie said around 1:30 a.m., a few minutes after touching down in a NASA jet. "I think when we get the weather done with today we're going to have a nice shot at launching here this week.

"We all just wanted to convey how excited we are to be here for launch week. We've got a great training team, they've got us ready. We've got multiple shifts of folks at mission control waiting to run this 16-day mission with us. And we've got a very, very ambitious flight schedule. But with a great orbiter waiting for us and this great crew, we're going to have a great mission. Thank you very much. You all have a nice evening."

Gorie and his crewmates - pilot Greg Johnson, flight engineer Mike Foreman, Richard Linnehan, Robert Behnken, Japanese astronaut Takao Doi and space station flight engineer Garrett Reisman - then left the runway as rain from a passing frontal system continued to fall.

An hour-and-a-half later, at 3 a.m., engineers at the nearby launch control center started Endeavour's carefully choreographed countdown at the T-minus 43-hour mark (launch minus 70 hours and 23 minutes, including hold time). Liftoff is targeted for 2:28:12 a.m. Tuesday, roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries launch pad 39A into the plane of the space station's orbit. The forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of good weather.

The primary goals of the year's second shuttle mission are to deliver a Japanese module to the international space station; to assemble and install a sophisticated Canadian robot capable of performing maintenance that otherwise might require a spacewalk; to deliver Reisman to the station and to return outgoing flight engineer Leopold Eyharts to Earth after six weeks in orbit.

The astronauts also plan to test a new heat shield repair technique, one of the final steps in NASA's recovery from the 2003 Columbia disaster.

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