Astronauts Prepare for Next Mission; Comment on Nowak

Space Shuttle Atlantis is due to lift off in one month, a familiar mission to add more pieces to the growing International Space Station. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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This mission is anything but routine with the added attention of astronaut Lisa Nowak's arrest last week. Nowak had been scheduled to be a communications specialist on the ground at Johnson Space Center, serving as a conduit between Mission Control and the astronauts on what's known as STS-117. Shuttle Commander Frederick Sturckow was brief when asked about how Nowak's absence will affect the mission.

"I think that we're in good shape with the current CAPCOM we've got and we're just looking forward to doing the mission right now."

Although Nowak's arrest has shaken NASA, Sturckow says his crew has tried not to allow it to change how it prepares for the upcoming mission.

"We discussed it amongst ourselves. We didn't have a meeting about it or anything. We've just been focused on our training, which is pretty intensive at this point in the mission preparations. Our management has been very supportive."

Much like the last two missions, STS-117 will revolve around installing a new truss section on the ISS, retracting a set of solar arrays and unfolding another new set. Astronaut Jim Riley will go on two of the three spacewalks scheduled for the mission and says input from the crew of the last mission on how to deal with stubborn arrays has been valuable.

"The best thing they gave us was the information for how they best were able to accomplish the task so what took them an entire EVA we're hoping to get done in significantly less time. They gave us a lot of really good information, so we feel pretty well prepared for this."

Astronaut Danny Olivas, who will also go on two spacewalks, says he has complete trust in the NASA support system as he gets ready for the 11 day mission.

"While we will be on orbit on our own, we'll also have the support of hundreds, thousands of people helping us out so that if we do encounter things that we didn't intend on encountering, we should be able to hopefully very quickly come up with a remedy and implement that on orbit."

After the Atlantis flight in March, NASA plans to launch Endeavour for a similar mission on June 28th.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...