The weather is looking good for NASA?s planned Monday launch of the space shuttle Discovery.
The shuttle and its seven-astronaut crew have an 80 percent chance of clear skies for their planned Monday blastoff toward the International Space Station.? Liftoff is set for 6:21 a.m. EDT (1021 GMT) from a seaside launch pad at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
?Overall, we?re looking at a great chance of good weather,? said shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters in a Thursday morning mission briefing. ?It should be a nice morning.?
Only the chance of low clouds or fog pose any concern for the upcoming launch, she added.
Discovery?s planned 13-day mission is one of NASA?s few remaining shuttle flights before the space agency retires its aging, three-orbiter fleet later this year. Only four flights remain, including Discovery?s upcoming STS-131 mission [see the weirdest NASA posters].
?We had a short flyby of the pad and saw the good ship Discovery out there, and it looks great,? mission commander Alan Poindexter told reporters earlier today after arriving at the launch site with his crewmates. ?We?re ready to go.?
Poindexter commands a four-man, three-woman crew aiming to deliver more than 27,000 pounds (12,246 kg) of supplies, cargo and new science equipment for the space station. Three spacewalks are planned to replace a large gyroscope for attitude control and install a spare ammonia tank, among other chores.
Launching aboard Discovery with Poindexter will be shuttle pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Rick Mastracchio, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Clayton Anderson and Naoko Yamazaki ? Japan?s second female astronaut ? who represents the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The fact that Discovery?s Monday launch will mark this shuttle?s second-to-last mission was not lost on the astronauts. NASA plans to retire its three space shuttles in the fall, after nearly 30 years of service, and rely on commercial spacecraft to launch astronauts to the space station.
?Although one day we?ll all become part of the history of NASA, we?re always part of its future,? Anderson said.
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