The STS-129 crew arrives at Kennedy
The crew are, Leland Melvin, Barry E. Wilmore, Charlie Hobaugh, Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman, and Robert Satcher. They will be joined on the return to Earth by Nicole Stott, a crewmember currently on the ISS. Preparations to ready Atlantis for launch ended Friday morning with the closing of the payload bay doors, sealing in the two ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC) units which will be installed on the ISS during the mission. Also making the trip is a device known as the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Ultra High Frequency Communication Unit, which will facilitate communications with the future SpaceX Dragon spacecraft - the first commercial spacecraft capable of delivering cargo and crew to the ISS, due to begin operations in 2010.
The Rotating Service Structure - the logistical frame surrounding the Shuttle and payload bay at the launch pad - will be rolled away to reveal Atlantis in ready to launch profile. Commander Charlie Hobaugh and pilot Barry Wilmore have begun practice landings in the Shuttle training aircraft - a modified Gulfstream II jet that accurately simulates the performance of the Shuttle.
The Gulfstream II Shuttle training aircraft in action
This will be Atlanis' penultimate flight, and with only six STS missions remaining on the launch manifest we are now entering the final stages of the historic Shuttle programme. Enjoy these launches while you can, there will be one long gap before NASA puts people into space again.
Happy Launching Spacers!
Images credit: NASA TV and NASA/Kim Shiflett