CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? The seven astronauts set to launch aboard NASA?s shuttle Discovery next week arrived at the agency?s spaceport Friday eager to fly and confident their spacecraft is safe to rocket into orbit.
Shuttle commander Pamela Melroy said she and her crewmates were satisfied that coating concerns for some of Discovery?s wing-mounted heat shield panels have been resolved as they look ahead to a planned 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT) launch toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 23.
?I?m proud to say that that the STS-120 crew is totally confident that the RCC on Discovery is ready to protect us on our ride home,? Melroy said of the 44 reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels that bear the brunt of the searing hot temperatures of atmospheric reentry during shuttle landings.
The panels are designed the nearly 3,000-degree Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius), though engineers found indications of defects in the exterior coating on three of Discovery?s panels.
Melroy said she took heart in the fact that NASA managers and engineers spent some 12 hours discussing their concerns before declaring Discovery fit to fly earlier this week. The STS-120 crew also reviewed their findings and was able to ask questions, she added.
?I feel very confident that everybody?s voice was heard,? Melroy told reporters after her crew arrived here on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) runway at 1:18 p.m. EDT (1718 GMT).
Melroy, NASA?s second female shuttle commander, and her crewmates are set to launch NASA?s STS-120 mission to continue space station assembly high above Earth. The Discovery astronauts will deliver a new connecting node, relocate an older solar array segment and test shuttle heat shield repair techniques during the five spacewalks planned for their 14-day spaceflight.
Launching into space with Melroy will be shuttle pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, Daniel Tani and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli.
?We?re like a bunch of kids on Christmas Eve here, full of anticipation, both personal and professional,? Parazynski told reporters.
Discovery?s crew will install the Harmony connecting module at the ISS, where it will serve as the anchor for future international laboratories still to fly. The shuttle is also ferrying Tani to the ISS where he will replace NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson as a member of the space station?s Expedition 16 crew.
?There?s a time when you need to talk?and there?s a time to go do it,? Melroy said. ?And I?m happy to say that we?re really here, and we?re going to go do it.?
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