NASA hauls shuttle to launch pad, despite cold

The space shuttle Endeavour was hauled out to its launch pad on Wednesday, despite freezing temperatures that had technicians spelling each other after 30 minutes to ward off the cold.

Temperatures were an unseasonably -- for Florida -- cool 29 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 Celsius) at the launch pad as NASA prepared to roll out Endeavour for its first mission of the new year. Nearby Melbourne set a record low temperature of 28 F.

The shuttle is scheduled to lift off on Feb. 7 on a mission to deliver the last major pieces of the International Space Station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that has been under construction 220 miles (350 km) above the Earth for more than a decade.

"It wasn't the equipment that was a concern. It was the personnel," said Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman Candrea Thomas, referring to the overnight chill.

The shuttle is rolled out to the launch pad atop an Apollo-era crawler transporter that trudges along at about 1 mph (1.6 kph). Technicians typically walk along the path to keep an eye out for any problems with the crawler.

The 3.4-mile (5.4 km) trek from the shuttle's assembly hangar to the launch pad is always a slow haul, but a wind chill in the low 20s made for an especially long shift.

NASA had its crews walk for 30 minutes then hop inside a van to warm up while replacements took over the job of monitoring the shuttle until it was anchored into place on the launch pad shortly before 11 a.m.

No matter what the weather, Endeavour will be kept at a toasty 70 degrees (21 C) while it is prepared for launch, thanks to a generous supply of heaters and hoses that keep warm air flowing.


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