NASA Announces Backup Commander for STS-134 Mission
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA announced Thursday that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams during STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly’s absence. Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.
Kelly remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April 19 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence, if necessary,” Kelly said. “I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to finish our training.”
“Mark is still the commander of STS-134,” said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. “He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife’s care.”
Sturckow will begin training next week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston with the rest of the STS-134 crew, which includes Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff. The 14-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts that include two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for the Dextre robot and micrometeoroid debris shields.
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