November 13th, 2010

Last Monday, November 8th, AMS-02 received the STS-134 astronauts visit.

Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and Roberto Vittori arrived at KSC early in the morning for the scheduled Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT), two days of hands-on training that the astronauts undergo a couple of months before the launch, checking out all the actual tools, hardware and equipment they will use in space.

The astronauts spent the first day of training at the SSPF to familiarize themselves with the payloads, ELC-3 and AMS-02, they will deliver to the International Space Station. Nobel laureate Samuel Ting and all of us of the AMS Collaboration team were in the Highbay to welcome them and answer all their questions about the experiment.

Of course, they already knew very well AMS-02, which they had visited at CERN in October 2009, but in the SSPF the experiment was integrated in the flight configuration, so they needed to understand and see for themselves new details about it. The crew appreciates the importance of the experiment, the first particle physics detector on the ISS; all along their time in the SSPF, between a check and a question, they told us many times how proud they are to be the crew that will deliver it to the Station.

Indeed, as the experiment doesn’t request any involvement by the ISS crew, the STS-134 astronauts should be the only ones to handle it, performing the key operations to install AMS-02. However, should the need for a Contingency EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) arise, during the integration in SSPF the experiment has been equipped with nine handrails and two WIFs (Worksite Interface Fixture) to help the astronauts in their work.

Later in the afternoon of the 8th November, the STS-134 crew had finally a rest, enjoying a beer with us at the Shuttle’s Dugout Sports Bar & Grill, close to the KSC. The day after, they spent their time with the Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2). In the afternoon, Commander Mark Kelly and Pilot Gregory Johnson moved to the Shuttle Landing Facility to practice with the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA), the NASA training vehicle used to simulate the Shuttle landing, that flies at the same speeds, dive angle and approach trajectory as the Shuttle. Every Shuttle commander and every pilot has to practice at least 1,000 landings with the STAs, but in fact, Commander Kelly, who was the pilot in STS-108 and STS-121, and commander in STS-124, already did more than 3,000 landings.

Checking tools in the SSPF (left). With technicians, checking out Endeavour’s payload bay (right).
Credits: NASA.