Discovery astronauts fly to Florida spaceport to prepare for launch

Pilot Eric Boe and Michael Barratt climb from their T-38 jet after landing at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photo: CBS News/William Harwood)
CBS News

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The six-member all-veteran crew of the shuttle Discovery flew to Florida Thursday to await the start of their countdown Friday and blastoff Monday on a space station resupply 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 between 2:53 p.m. EDT and 4 p.m. (18:53 and 20:00 GMT).

"Hopefully weather permitting, if all goes well, we'll have a nice Nov. 1 on-time launch," Lindsey told reporters at the Shuttle Landing Facility. "We're looking forward to it."
Astronaut Nicole Stott talks to reporters after arrival at the Kennedy Space Center. Her crewmates, from left to right: Michael Barratt, Timothy Kopra, Alvin Drew, pilot Eric Boe and commander Steven Lindsey. (Photo: CBS News/William Harwood)

Discovery's countdown to launch on the orbiter's 39th and final mission is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (19:00 GMT) Friday. Liftoff from pad 39A is targeted for 4:40:27 p.m. (20:40:27 GMT) Monday, roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries the pad into the plane of the space station's orbit.

Astronaut Michael Barratt, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana (back to camera), Launch Director Michael Leinbach, shuttle pilot Eric Boe and commander Steven Lindsey chat on the shuttle runway after crew arrival. (Photo: CBS News/William Harwood)
"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 multi-purpose 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 Nov. 7. If the shuttle is not off the ground by then, the flight will slip to at least Dec. 1.