NASA employees training for Atlantis mission

June 17, 2011 4:39:37 PM PDT
We are just weeks ago from NASA'S final shuttle mission. Atlantis is getting ready to blast off for the international space station.

We're getting a look behind the scenes in mission control and the training for those who are set to jump into action if things go wrong.

When you see a launch in person in Florida or even on TV, the shuttle's engine roar is so loud. So we figured on the floor of mission control it would, for some reason, be the same. It's not. It is really quiet in there.

For the trip to space, there are 15 people in this room. Mostly, but not all, are men, and even when things are going well, they are tied keyed into the job they're doing.

But when things go wrong, it's hard to tell.

We were there for a simulation. The mission control team is at their normal seats.

The crew was a few buildings over at Johnson Space Center in a simulator that twists and tilts and shakes with the crew inside.

In this training session, the shuttle developed a simulated Freon leak. It knocked out the shuttle's ability to cool itself down and that could've been dangerous.

The team decided to bring the shuttle home after just one orbit. It's never been done in real life. But on this day, in this room, it was done successfully.

"It was a very important practicing. We have a very small crew this time, we don't have anyone in the mid-dock," shuttle commander Chris Ferguson said. "I think it was a great script. It gave us an opportunity and the mission control team an opportunity to see just what our capabilities are."

They will practice this just one more time, and then it's launch day and then mission control is done.

Once Atlantis lands, mission control will turn into a new room for some unnamed program. A lot of these people will get new jobs and the shuttles will stop flying, but this crew doesn't think it's the end.

"The space shuttle won't stop inspiring people, they're going to park Atlantis down at the Kennedy Space Center and kids are going to go real close for the first time to see the Atlantis and say, wow that's amazing we can launch those into space, and hopefully they'll get the same reaction and say let's do it again, let's do it again," astronaut Rex Walheim said.

Technicians will begin making high-tech X-ray scans of the shuttle's fuel tank's support beams to look for any cracks that could delay launch. Atlantis' final launch is scheduled for July 8 and we'll be in Florida to bring it to you.

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