Today marks the final week counting down to the scheduled launch of space shuttle Endeavour, whose seven-member crew of space sailors is yet another “purple” multi-service representation, including a Navy SEAL. Endeavour is scheduled for a 7:17 a.m. EDT liftoff on Saturday, June 13, from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The 16-day mission of STS-127 marks the final flight hauling parts of Japan’s Kibo Laboratory to the International Space Station.
One of the mission specialists is Navy Cmdr. Christopher Cassidy(below), a SEAL and decorated Afghanistan veteran who will ride Endeavour on his first flight into space. Hooyah! Cassidy will be the second SEAL to go into space, a feat previously done by his mentor, retired Navy Capt. William M. Shepherd, who was the international space station’s first commander.
Endeavour’s shuttle commander, Mark Polansky, is a retired Air Force test pilot who’s done two shuttle missions, STS-98 and STS-116. Veteran mission specialist Dave Wolf is a former Air Force flight surgeon. The shuttle pilot is Marine Lt. Col. Doug Hurley, going on his first space flight. Army Col. Tim Kopra, a mission specialist also on his first flight, is a helicopter test pilot who will stay aboard the space station while Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will hitch a ride back to Earth.
The shuttle crew will be quarantined at the Johnson Space Center in Houston starting tomorrow until they return to Florida Tuesday to prepare for the flight. NASA officials gave the mission a “go,” although bad weather could delay the launch. Space buffs can track the mission online or on NASA-TV. There’s also a cool interactive site to track each day’s work.
You can even reach them on Twitter. The mission commander is “Astro_127.” Twittering won’t end when Endeavour reaches orbit. Folks can query the crew via video tweets — they must be less than 30 seconds — posted on YouTube, with the video link sent to his Twitter account. NASA will pick questions for him to answer live on NASA-TV. We’ll have to wait for his reponse to this question already posted: “What would happen if you fly into a black hole?” Let’s hope we won’t find out.