Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stage Set For Shuttle Fuel-Loading & Launch

NASA mission managers will meet early this morning and decide whether to fuel shuttle Discovery for a 4:50 p.m. launch on its 39th and final flight.

Managers will gather at 7 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center, and then NASA TV coverage of propellant-loading operations is slated to pick at 7:15 a.m. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

Engineers are scheduled to begin loading 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the shuttle's external tank at 7:25 a.m. Fuel-loading will take about three hours and then we'll have live coverage starting at 10:15 a.m. of the docking of a robotic European cargo carrier at the International Space Station. The link-up must be successful in order to proceed with the shuttle launch.

We'll begin live coverage from the roof of our blockhouse at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site at 2 p.m. and we have an all-star cast of guests for a broadcast that will stream live on and Check this out:

We'll have live countdown updates, live feeds from our reporters at launch viewing sites around the Space Coast, and we'll be talking live with:

++ Mike Kinslow, the Boeing manager responsible for preparing Discovery's cargo for launch. He'll talk about the the Italian-built Leonardo storage module and the shuttle's seventh crew-member: Robonaut.

++ Andrea Farmer of the KSC Visitors Complex will tell you about the push to put Discovery, Atlantis or Endeavour on display here after fleet retirement, and how people can get an up-close and personal view of the two remaining shuttle launches.

++ Ed Mango, NASA's director of the Space Transportation Planning Office at KSC. He is layings the groundwork for the first-ever human space flight program office at KSC -- the office that will be responsible for overseeing the development and operation of the commercial space taxis that will ferry American astronauts to and from low Earth orbit.

++ Rene Arriens of shuttle fleet operator United Space Alliance, who heads the Close Out Crew that will help the Discovery astronauts strap into the orbiter. Arriens will close the hatch and then come directly to the blockhouse to give us the latest update on the astronauts. We'll only have a few minutes with Arriens -- he will have to report to a fall-back position a mile from the pad and be ready to rush in and rescue the astronauts in an emergency.

++ Robert Pearlman, editor of Robert will tell us about a short ribs developed on the Emmy Award-Winning Reality TV Show "Top Chef" that will be flying on Discovery. Learn how one prepares "ginger-lacquered short ribs with pea puree, pickled mushrooms and horseradish creme fraiche" for a gourmet meal in outer space.

++ Dr. John Logsden, a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and the founder and longtime director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Logsdon will talk about the Obama Administration's new direction for NASA and his new book, "John F. Kennedy and the Race To The Moon."

++ Former NASA Chief Astronaut Kent Rominger, now a vice president and program manager at ATK. Rominger will talk bout the company's plans to join forces with Europe to develop a new rocket that can carry crew capsules and spaceplanes on missions to the International Space Station or other destinations in low Earth orbit. Now-Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson recently had to tell International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly that the wife of his astronaut twin brother -- Tucson shooting victim and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- had been critically wounded in a Jan. 8 assassination attempt. He'll also talk about Mark Kelly's decision to press ahead with the command of the penultimate shuttle mission in April despite his wife's difficult situation.

++ NASA Astronaut Steve Swanson will be with us after launch to provide commentary and a wrap-up on the countdown and launch.

Join us on and beginning at 2 p.m.

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