Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan And Shuttle Crew Mates Arrive In Fla. For Practice Countdown

Monday, July 16th 2007, 8:58 pm
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and her crew mates arrived in Florida on Monday for a few days of dress rehearsal in preparation for next month's launch of space shuttle Endeavour.

Bad weather forced the seven astronauts to arrive in a jet normally used for simulating shuttle landings rather than the smaller training jets regularly used to fly the crew from Houston to Kennedy Space Center.

``Hopefully in three weeks, we'll have better weather to fly down here,'' Scott Kelly, Endeavour's commander, said after landing.

The launch is set for Aug. 7.

During their three days in Florida, the Endeavour crew will be briefed on safety equipment, drive a tank used during an escape from the launch pad and make shuttle landing simulation runs. The preparations will culminate with a practice launch countdown on Thursday, when the astronauts don their orange spacesuits and climb into the shuttle.

Morgan has been waiting two decades for the chance to go to space. She beamed with a wide smile after landing, and exchanged hugs with Johnson Space Center workers who came to Florida for the dress rehearsal.

``Thanks for coming out and seeing us,'' Morgan told reporters.

Morgan was picked in 1985 to be Christa McAuliffe's backup in the teacher in space program. McAuliffe and six astronauts were killed when the space shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after liftoff in 1986, and Morgan returned to teaching in Idaho. In 1998, she was selected as a full-fledged astronaut.

On her first mission, the 55-year-old Morgan will operate the shuttle's robotic arm, coordinate the transfer of cargo and talk from space to students at three schools, if the mission is extended as expected from 11 to 14 days.

The mission will be the first flight in almost five years for Endeavour, which underwent extensive refurbishment. During the mission, Endeavour's crew will deliver a new truss segment to the international space station, fix a gyroscope which controls the outpost's orientation and go on as many as four spacewalks.