Space shuttle Discovery safely arrives at launch pad

Friday, May 19, 2006File:148888main sts121atpad lg.jpg

On Friday in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Space Shuttle Discovery began its 4.2 mile, 7 hour long journey to the launch pad, completing successfully. Discovery weighs approximately 4.5 million pounds.

The launch was supposed to occur in May, but NASA pushed back the date because of a faulty fuel sensor.

This will be Discovery’s second mission since the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry in 2003. Engineers believed that foam falling from the shuttle and smashing into the wing caused the disaster. After the accident, NASA grounded the shuttle fleet to determine the cause.

In 2005 cameras had shown during launch that a piece of foam being shed from the external tank, as well as smaller tile and foam dings. NASA and the crew decided that mission specialist Stephen Robinson should attempt to pull out the protruding gap fillers. Cameras also detected a small piece of thermal blanket near the cockpit that fell off, but later tests in wind tunnels had shown the piece to be of little concern and Discover landed safely.

NASA is scheduling the launch for Discovery to be between July 1 and July 19, 2006 and Steve Lindsey will Commander of the mission, flying with pilot Mark Kelly, two spacewalkers, Mike Fossum and Piers Sellers and mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Lisa Nowak. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Reiter is also part of the crew but he will remain on the International Space Station (ISS) for several months.

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