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Photo Gallery: Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

June 26, 2011 — The astronauts slated to launch on NASA's final space shuttle mission took part June 23 in their last full dress rehearsal for their July liftoff.

Led by mission commander Chris Ferguson, the four crewmembers donned bright orange pressure suits and boarded shuttle Atlantis on Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

After strapping into their seats on the flight deck, Ferguson, with pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, rehearsed the launch procedures that they will follow on the day they lift off, targeted for July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT.

Their mission, STS-135, is a 12-day flight to bring supplies and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be the 135th and last shuttle mission for NASA before the 30-year-old program is retired this year.

But this past week, the crew's mission was to gain familiarity with their spacecraft and the teams that will assist them on launch day.

"The biggest thing is that you are working with the whole team down here and actually going through a launch count right up until T-0," Hurley explained to collectSPACE during a Wednesday press conference at the launch pad. "You've got your suits, you got your suit techs, you are doing all the motions that you go through on launch day all the way out to the pad."

The training session has been a standard activity for all NASA shuttle missions and is known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT.

"It is just a very comprehensive, hands-on-at-the-place-you're-going-to-do-it kind of training and it is invaluable," Hurley said. "You can do all the simulators in the world but until you get into that real vehicle, touch the vehicle, see what you can reach, see the different switches — everything is just a little bit different when you are in the real vehicle."

"It is a great way to get you ready for the launch day when it counts," he said.

Photos: / Robert Z. Pearlman

Video: NASA Television / Kennedy Space Center

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

"STS-135 is notable, significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is the last flight. And I don't think that comes as a surprise to anybody," said STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). "I think I speak on behalf of the crew, everyone in the Astronaut Office, and I am sure everyone here at KSC, that we are just trying to savor the moment. As our children and our children's children ask us, we want to be able to say 'we remember when there was a space shuttle.'"

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

The astronauts took turns driving one of the M113 armored personnel carriers that will be stationed near the launch pad where they will lift off. In the unlikely event of an emergency, the astronauts would climb inside the M113 to drive away from danger.

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

"It is a pleasure to be here and especially right in front of the space shuttle. It just gives you goose bumps thinking we're going to get to ride that in about two weeks," said mission specialist Rex Walheim during a press conference held at Launch Pad 39A.

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

The Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test ended with a full dress rehearsal for launch day, including the suited astronauts exiting their crew quarters and boarding the Astrovan for Pad 39A, just as they will on the day they lift off.

Final space shuttle crew rehearses for launch day

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