CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? The six astronauts who will fly on space shuttle Discovery during its historic final flight have arrived at their Florida launch site for the planned Monday launch, after a slight delay due to an aircraft glitch. ?
Discovery commander Steve Lindsey and four of his crewmates began landing their NASA T-38 jets here at the Kennedy Space Center at about 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). A plane swap for the sixth crewmember, mission specialist Alvin Drew, delayed his arrival by an hour.
"It?s great to be down here ? what an exciting week," Lindsey told reporters who had gathered for the crew's arrival. "Hopefully, weather permitting, all goes well and we'll have a nice Nov. 1 on-time launch. We're looking forward to it."
On its 11-day mission, Discovery will haul critical spare parts to the space station, including a storage room and a humanoid robot to assist the crew of the orbiting laboratory. It will be the 39th and last space voyage for Discovery before NASA retires is shuttle fleet next year.
Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott and Tim Kopra flew in on three of NASA's supersonic T-38 training jets from their the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Drew's arrival was delayed about an hour, after issues with his T-38 aircraft forced him to return to Houston to switch planes. He touched down at the Florida spaceport at approximately 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).
A grateful crew
Lindsey also expressed gratitude to the teams at Kennedy Space Center who, just last weekend, completed a speedy repair on two leaky seals that were found on Discovery's fuel line.
"They did a fantastic job getting the vehicle ready for us," Lindsey said.
The STS-133 crew is scheduled to launch Monday at 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT) to the International Space Station.
The six veteran spaceflyers who will navigate Discovery on its final journey landed their T-38 training vehicles on the same three-mile-long runway where Discovery's wheels will roll to a stop for the last time at the conclusion of its coming mission. [Gallery: Shuttle Discovery's Last Launch Pad Trip]
Launch day looms
In the remaining days before launch, the astronauts will
remain in medical quarantine ? a standard precaution ? to prevent illness
before the mission. They will also spend the next several days reviewing
mission details and completing last-minute training exercises.
The official countdown for Discovery's launch will begin tomorrow (Oct. 29) at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT).
Discovery's final flight will be NASA's 133rd shuttle mission, before the space agency brings its 30-year space shuttle program to a close in 2011.
NASA is retiring the three remaining shuttles in its fleet ? Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour ?to make way for a new plan aimed at sending astronauts to visit an asteroid and Mars. Discovery is the oldest of NASA's space shuttles.
President Obama recently signed a major NASA act that turns his vision for U.S. space exploration into law. The NASA authorization act scraps the space agency's previous moon-oriented goal and paves the way for a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025. A manned mission to Mars is envisioned for some time in the 2030s.
The bill also calls for a budget of $19 billion for NASA in 2011, adding one extra space shuttle flight before the fleet retires for good, and the extension of the International Space Station through at least 2020.
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Follow SPACE.com Staff Writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow as she covers Discovery's final space voyage from Cape Canaveral, Fla.. Click here for mission updates, new stories and a link to NASA's live webcast coverage.