Endeavour Crew Prepares for Wednesday Landing

Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew prepare for their return to Earth after the spacecraft's final mission skyward.

Space shuttle Endeavour's crew is wrapping up final preparations for its planned landing Wednesday morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space agency reported. The crew is preparing to stow the Ku-Band antenna, used for high-data-rate communications and television from space, and will sleep before the re-entry sequence.

The astronauts on Endeavour got a special wake-up call Monday to kick off a day devoted to preparing the orbiter and its crew for their return to Earth this week. The wake-up call featured the original composition "Dreams You Give" by Brain Plunkett, the second-place winner in the Space Shuttle Program's Original Song Contest, which drew more than 1,300 entries. More than a million votes were cast online by the general public to choose two songs from among 10 finalists to be played to the astronauts; the top vote-getter will be played to wake up the crew tomorrow.

At 8:06 p.m. EDT, all six crew members will start their day talking about the flight in a series of interviews with various major news outlets, and an hour later Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson and Flight Engineer Roberto Vittori will take their places on Endeavour's flight deck and work with the entry flight-control team on a routine pre-entry checkout of the shuttle's flight-control systems and reaction-control system jets.

Most of the rest of the crew's day will be spent packing items throughout the crew cabin in preparation for the planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday morning, the space agency reported. The crew also took time for a tribute to Endeavour, speaking about the history of the youngest space shuttle and the work accomplished by its crews during its 25 trips to space.

Endeavour was NASA's fifth and final space shuttle orbiter to join the fleet at Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour also is known inside the space agency by its designation Orbiter Vehicle-105, or OV-105. Construction of Endeavour began Sept. 28, 1987, and it rolled out of the assembly plant in Palmdale, Calif., in April 1991. For the first time, a national competition involving students in elementary and secondary schools produced the name of the new orbiter.

After receiving 6,154 entries, representing more than 70,000 students, NASA chose Endeavour. The name comes from a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer.

Among Endeavour's missions was the first to include four spacewalks, and then the first to include five. Its STS-67 mission set a length record of almost two full days longer than any shuttle mission before it. Its airlock is the only one to have seen three spacewalkers exit through it for a single spacewalk. And in its cargo bay, the first two pieces of the International Space Station were joined together.