Discovery crew flies to Florida to prep for launch
Discovery astronauts jet to Kennedy Space Center to prepare for blastoff Monday on a space station resupply mission, the shuttle's 39th and final flight.
Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.
The six-member, all-veteran crew of the shuttle Discovery flew to Florida today to await their blastoff Monday on a space station resupply mission that will be the orbiter's 39th and final mission.
Arriving at the Florida spaceport after staggered flights from Houston aboard T-38 jets, commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, and spacewalkers Timothy Kopra and Alvin Drew touched down this afternoon.
"Weather permitting, if all goes well, we'll have a nice November 1 on-time launch," Lindsey told reporters at the Shuttle Landing Facility. "We're looking forward to it."
Discovery's countdown to launch is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. tomorrow. Liftoff from pad 39A is targeted for 4:40:27 p.m. Monday, the moment Earth's rotation is estimated to carry the pad into the plane of the space station's orbit.
"We were able to talk to our friends on the space station this morning and they have spent a lot of time getting everything ready up there for us," Barratt said. "We have a huge collection of hardware up there and I think we'll exceed a million pounds for the first time during our docked mission. We just want to give a nod to the program office that put the space station together and runs it. We're really looking forward to getting up there and doing our part to add to it yet again."
The primary goals of the flight are to deliver a 21-foot-long cargo storage module, the last pressurized compartment NASA plans to launch to the station. The permanent multipurpose logistics module, or PMM, is loaded with 6,536 pounds of cargo, including an experimental humanoid robot known as Robonaut 2.
Another 1,500 pounds of supplies and equipment are mounted in the shuttle's crew cabin, and an external storage platform carrying a spare set of folding radiator panels is mounted in the ship's cargo bay. The 8,161-pound storage platform and the radiator panels will be mounted on the space station's power truss.
"It's really great to be back here, this place brings smiles to all of our faces for sure," said Stott. "We're bringing up some pretty cool stuff. We've got a permanent logistics module that we'll be attaching and we have the ELC-4, which is basically an external carrier that will have some large spare parts for the station. So we really look forward to being able to put the station in the best possible configuration for future missions."
Discovery's launch window extends through November 7.