Sunday, February 20, 2011

Discovery crew "ready to go" at KSC

Six Discovery astronauts flew into Kennedy Space Center this afternoon ahead of a 4:50 p.m. Thursday attempt to launch the shuttle's final mission.

"We are ready to go," said mission specialist Nicole Stott, a former KSC engineer who will be making her second shuttle flight. "Here's to Thursday."

To Stott's left in blue flight suits were mission commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Mike Barratt, Steve Bowen and Al Drew.

All but Bowen were here Nov. 5, hours from launching to the International Space Station, when a fuel leak and cracks on external tank support beams prompted a mission delay of nearly four months.

On Jan. 15, mission specialist Tim Kopra was injured in a bicycling accident. NASA replaced him with Bowen, who flew on the last shuttle flight in May 2010.

"I've got big shoes to fill," said Bowen.

Lindsey said the team was confident in Discovery's repaired external attempt.

"We’re back here for another attempt at this," he said. "We’re pretty confident about this one."
The crew touched down in T-38 jets on the shuttle runway after 3:30 p.m. and were greeted by dignitaries including NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, KSC Director Bob Cabana and shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

Launch teams are scheduled to be called to their stations in Firing Room 4 at 2:30 p.m. Monday for an official start of the countdown at 3 p.m.

Earlier, at 10 a.m., NASA plans a first briefing to discuss the mission's status and provide a preliminary weather forecast. Tune in live here by clicking the NASA TV box at right.

At launch pad 39A, teams this afternoon are pressurizing tanks that feed propellant to the shuttle's orbital engines and thrusters, a hazardous operation that clears the pad of non-essential personnel.

IMAGES: Top, credit Mike Brown, Florida Today. Bottom, credit NASA.

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