Discovery crew flies to Florida to prep for launch

CBS News

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL--The shuttle Discovery's five-man one-woman crew flew to the Kennedy Space Center Sunday to prepare for another launch try Thursday, more than three-and-a-half months after the flight was put on hold because of cracks in the ship's external tank.

The shuttle Discovery's crew flew to the Kennedy Space Center Sunday to prepare for launch. Left to right: Nicole Stott, Michael Barrett, Stephen Bowen, Al Drew, pilot Eric Boe and commander Steven Lindsey. (Credit: CBS News/William Harwood)
"It's great to be back at the Cape," said commander Steven Lindsey. "We're back here for another attempt at this. We're pretty confident about this one."

Lindsey and his crewmates -- pilot Eric Boe, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and spacewalkers Stephen Bowen and Alvin Drew -- originally hoped to launch last year, but the mission was grounded in the wake of a Nov. 5 launch scrub when stress-relief cracks were discovered in rib-like "stringers" used in the ship's external tank.

The tank has since been modified to make it less susceptible to temperature-induced cracks and senior managers, attending a flight readiness review Friday, unanimously cleared Discovery for launch.

"I'd like to thank the team, the shuttle team in particular, all the folks here and working at all the centers across the country," Lindsey said at the shuttle runway. "The external tank problem we've been working the last several months is probably one of the most difficult technical challenges we've faced in recent years. But the team did a great job coming together, figuring out a very difficult engineering problem, coming up with a solution that I think gives us a really good tank to go launch with this week."

Lindsey also thanked astronaut Timothy Kopra, the mission's original flight engineer and lead spacewalker, who was replaced by Bowen after being injured in a bicycle accident last month near his home in Houston.

Discovery commander Steven Lindsey is welcomed to Florida by Launch Director Mike Leinbach (facing camera), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (back to camera) and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana (red shirt). (Credit: CBS News/William Harwood)
"We had a real challenging training flow to try to bring Steve Bowen in and get him up to speed to take Tim's place," Lindsey said. "Right now, I'd like to thank Tim for all that he's done for us. We're all disappointed he's not going to be here. If it wasn't for Tim developing our EVAs as the lead spacewalker ... we couldn't have pulled this off in four weeks of training and be ready to go.

"But I'm happy to say our training's complete and we're ready to go. Steve Bowen has jumped into the crew and just done a fantastic job. ... So we're ready to fly. We're anxious for hopefully good weather and a good vehicle and launch and go up to the space station."

Shuttle engineers plan to start Discovery's countdown at 3 p.m. EST (GMT-5) Monday. "If all goes well, Discovery will blast off on its 39th and final mission at 4:50:24 p.m. Thursday. Docking at the International Space Station is expected around 2:16 p.m. Saturday.

"It's always a great thing to come back to KSC," said Barratt. "Last night, we were able to watch the station pass over Houston. The conditions were perfect and it was just incredibly bright. It's amazing to think we put that up there, piece by piece, a lot of it from this very place and that we'll be chasing it down by the end of the week. We're really, really looking forward to that."