Discovery's STS-114 Crew Arrives at Launch Site

Discovery's STS-114 Crew Arrives at Launch Site
The crew of NASA's first return to flight mission, STS-114, arrives at Kennedy Space Center. Mission commander Eileen Collins is at front. Her crewmates are (from left): mission specialist Andrew Thomas, pilot James Kelly, mission specialists Soichi Noguchi, Charles Camarda, Wendy Lawrence and Stephen Robinson. (Image credit: T. Malik.)

CAPECANAVERAL - The next astronaut crew of the space shuttle Discovery arrived attheir launch site today, flying in under a cloudy sky but looking forward to aJuly 13 space shot that NASA hopes will be the first orbiter launch since the Columbia disaster.

Clad inblue flight suits, STS-114 commander Eileen Collins and her six fellow crewmatesstepped off their transport plane and onto the runway here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at about 6:30p.m. EDT (2230 GMT). Their arrival, originally slated for July 10, was pushedup a full day on Friday due to the Gulf Coast approach of Hurricane Dennis.

"This shuttleflight is the beginning of a new chapter in space exploration, we're going tofinish building the space station and do the science up there that needs to bedone," Collins said. "It's going to be a very exciting time...people's heartsare beating."

Discovery'sSTS-114 mission is NASA's first scheduled shuttle flight since the 2003Columbia accident that destroyed one orbiter and killed seven astronauts. Columbia broke apart while reentering the Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003 after hotgases penetrated its wing through a hole gouged by launch debris two weeksearlier at liftoff.

"It's beentwo and a half years since a crew stood here before you, and that's way toolong," said STS-114 mission specialist Andrew Thomas. "It is definitely time thatwe went back to flight and back to space."

Discoveryis currently sitting atop KSC's Launch Pad 39B, where engineers are preparingit to launch on July 13 at 3:51 p.m. EDT (1951 GMT) mission. The spaceflight'slaunch window stretches through July 31.

In additionto Collins, pilot James Kelly and mission specialists Andrew Thomas, StephenRobinson, Wendy Lawrence, Charles Camarda and Soichi Noguchi - a JapaneseAerospace Exploration Agency astronaut - round out the STS-114 crew.

"I will saythe same thing in English," Noguchi said after addressing reporters inJapanese. "Let's go fly."

The STS-114mission is the first of two scheduled shuttle launches to shakedown new orbiterhardware and procedures to inspect the spacecraft in orbit and increase flightsafety. NASA has spent the last two and a half years modifying shuttle externaltanks to prevent the type of debris damage that doomed Columbia, and to reduceice buildup on critical areas where managers feared it could shake loose duringlaunch.

Discovery'supcoming spaceflight will also be the first orbiter to visit the InternationalSpace Station since December 2002, and will carry a cargo module laden withfood, supplies, equipment and spare parts for the orbital facility.

"I am veryproud of this crew that's standing behind me," Collins told reporters. "Theyare very prepared and ready to fly this mission."

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.