The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report has a proposed rescue method for an orbiter distant from the International Space Station and it involves a space walk transfer via a guideline from one payload bay to another - graphics below are taken from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report
I have tried to find out about the training for the rescue of Atlantis' crew if the Hubble Space Telescope mission should go horribly wrong. IMHO it would be a great story and the water tank training would provide great images
I asked Griffin about the training during my 30min interview with him last year while he was in London and he said that he was not aware of the details. Fair enough, you can't expect the chief of a $17 billion agency to know about everything that is going on even astronaut training for what could be seen as the most dangerous mission for many years with no safe harbour as the orbiter can't reach the International Space Station
I also got to interview Chris Ferguson, the commander of STS-126 (not -125 as I had mistakenly typed before), earlier this year. Ferguson's crew, as the following mission, will be on launch pad 39B readyb to launch if needed to rescue Atlantis' astronauts.
I got a good story about a software upgrade for the orbiters but sadly at the time he wasn't able to be any more informative about the rescue mission training. Neither could British born NASA astronaut Piers Sellers when I spoke to him, because he had trained for one of the earlier launch-on-need missions as they are also known
Perhaps it is easier to transfer from one orbiter to another by guideline in microgravity but for the extreme close proximity orbiter formation flying required wouldn't NASA have its step-by-step manuals for that? It would make for some interesting orbiter full motion simulator sessions anyway
I am looking forward to chasing up this story. With the launch delayed to November there is still plenty of time. It is going to be quite a sight to see two Shuttles on pads 39A and 39B for the last time and its preparation will automatically draw wide media attention
Having spoken to many astronauts they are remarkably relaxed about the dangers but I guess that comes with training. There are few occupations where death is something your routinely preparing for