August 7, 2006

Shuttle crew in Florida for practice countdown

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA's next space
shuttle crew arrived at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on
Monday for a dress rehearsal of the late August launch of a
mission to restart construction of the International Space

They were to participate in a practice countdown that
culminates on Thursday with the six astronauts climbing into
the shuttle Atlantis and strapping themselves into the seats
they will occupy at launch, currently targeted for August 27.

"We're very happy to be here," said astronaut Brent Jett,
the commander of the five-man, one-woman crew. "We'll be real
anxious to get back here at the end of the month."

Assembly of the half-built $100 billion multinational
outpost has been on hold since before the 2003 Columbia

After shuttle Discovery made a successful flight to test
safety upgrades last month, NASA cleared the way for the first
of 16 shuttle missions planned to complete the station before
the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

Atlantis is scheduled to deliver what will be a second set
of solar arrays for the station, in preparation for increased
power requirements when partner laboratories from Europe and
Japan are installed beginning next year.

NASA managers plan to set a firm launch date following a
flight review on August 16.

In addition to Jett, the Atlantis crew includes pilot
Christopher Ferguson, flight engineer Dan Burbank, the Canadian
Space Agency's Steven MacLean and astronauts Joseph Tanner and
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper.

Ferguson and Stefanyshyn-Piper will be making their first