CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - The next sevenastronauts to fly the space shuttle Discovery arrived at NASA's Florida spaceport Tuesday, each confident they will launch early next month and eager for afinal dress rehearsal, their commander said.
Veteranshuttle astronaut StevenLindsey, commander of NASA's STS-121shuttle mission slated to launch July 1, said he believes the mission willlift off early in its 19-day flight window.
"I and mycrew are pretty optimistic that early July looks good," Lindsey said after hiscrew landed here at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to practice launch countdownprocedures with shuttle ground crews and mission controllers.
NASAmanagers will meet at KSC this weekend to pick a hard launch date forthe STS-121 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the space agency'ssecond planned shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia accident, andhold press conference Saturday afternoon, NASA said in a statement.
Lindsey andhis fellow shuttle crewmates walked off their jet transport at about 4:37 p.m.EDT (2037 GMT) after a two-hour flight from Houston, home to NASA's Johnson Space Center, and one day of delays due to stormy weather spawned by Tropical StormAlberto.
A veteran ofthree shuttle flights, Lindsey introduced reporters to his STS-121 crew: Discovery pilot Mark Kelly, mission specialists Michael Fossum,Lisa Nowak, Piers Sellers, Stephanie Wilson, and European Space Agencyastronaut ThomasReiter.
"He onlypaid for a one-way trip, so we're going to leave him up on space station,"Lindsey said of Reiter, who will join the Expedition13 crew aboard the ISS once Discovery departs the orbital laboratory.
The STS-121spaceflight is the second of two test missions - the first of which, STS-114, launched in July 2005 -to shake down orbiter inspection and repair techniques, as well as shuttle externaltank changes to reduce flight risks during launch.
Lindsey andhis crewmates are in the final stages of training for their mission and willspend the next two days in a Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT), asort of launch countdown rehearsal that culminates in a simulationaboard Discoveryon Pad 39B.
Theastronauts were expected to fly to KSC Monday in their own T-38 jet aircraft,but settled for a group arrival a day later as Tropical Storm Alberto loosedtorrents of rain and other stormy weather across Central Florida.
"We'verearranged our schedule and we're going to stay an extra day to get everythingdone down here," Lindsey said. "As far as we know, everything's okay."
KSCspokesperson Tracy Young told SPACE.com that the STS-121 crew shifteda training session to practice driving NASA's M-113armored personnel carrier, which is designed to carry astronaut crews during an emergency evacuation ofthe shuttle launch pad, to late Wednesday instead of today as part of theirschedule change.
The crewwill now stay at KSC through about midday Friday before returning to Houston, Young said.
- Discovery Shuttle Astronauts Ready for STS-121 Mission
- Busy Spacewalks on Tap for STS-121 Mission
- Shuttle Discovery 'Safe to Fly' July Launch, NASA Says
- Return to Flight: NASA's Road to STS-121