Shuttle Discovery set for nighttime launch


Discovery rests on launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral on Monday evening.
Space shuttle Discovery was scheduled to launch early Tuesday morning for a mission to deliver equipment to the international space station.

The shuttle’s seven-member crew has boarded the vehicle and the hatch is closed, leaving the 15-story tall spacecraft waiting at Kennedy Space Center famed Launch pad 39A, gleaming under the bright lights, for Tuesday’s early morning launch. Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Kevin Ford will guide Discovery to the space station after launch, scheduled for 1:36 a.m. ET Tuesday, NASA said. Forecasters gave the Cape an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions at launch time. One of Discovery’s seven astronauts, Nicole Stott, will remain on the space station as a flight engineer, replacing astronaut Timothy Kopra, who will return home aboard Discovery as a mission specialist, according to the NASA Web page for the mission. Also on board: The Leonardo logistics module, science experiments and the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT), named for Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Earlier this year, NASA conducted an online poll to name the space station’s newest compartment, asking voters to choose one of four given options or offer their own suggestion. Colbert urged his viewers to suggest “Colbert,” which won. But Colbert and the space agency compromised to give the moniker to the treadmill instead. The new module was given the name Tranquility. “I’m so proud my treadmill will be going into space to help trim down those famously fat astronauts. Lay off the Tang, Chubby!” Colbert said in a statement last week. The mission will be Discovery’s 37th to space, and the 30th shuttle mission dedicated to international space station assembly and maintenance, NASA says.

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