Shuttle Astronauts Ready for Complex Construction Flight

Shuttle Astronauts Ready for Complex Construction Flight
The STS-120 crew pose for a mission portrait. Pictured from the left are astronauts Scott Parazynski, Douglas Wheelock, Stephanie Wilson, all mission specialists; George Zamka, pilot; Pamela Melroy, commander; DanielTani, Expedition 16 flight engineer; and Paolo Nespoli, mission specialist representing the European Space Agency (ESA). (Image credit: NASA.)

HOUSTON ? Seven astronauts are eagerlypreparing for a busy construction flight to the International Space Station(ISS), with just over one month remaining until their planned launch aboard NASA?sshuttle Discovery.

?This is anexciting moment for any crew,? shuttle commander Pamela Melroy said Friday.

Melroy andher crewmates said they are looking forward to their planned Oct. 23 launch on NASA?sSTS-120 mission to deliver a new connecting node to the ISS and move anolder solar array segment to the station?s port-most side.

That Port 6solar array module relocation, which will be completed during the third of upto five planned spacewalks during Discovery?s two-week spaceflight, will likelybe among the most challenging tasks of the mission, the astronauts said.

?That is avery complex activity,? said mission specialist Stephanie Wilson, the lead STS-120robotic arm operator, in a press briefing here at the Johnson Space Center. ?We hope it will go smoothly, but perhaps it will go differently.?

In additionto Melroy and Wilson, shuttle pilot George Zamka, mission specialists Scott Parazynski,Doug Wheelock, Daniel Tani and Paolo Nespoli ? of the European Space Agency ?will launch into space aboard Discovery during the October mission. Tani willstay aboard the ISS to relieve fellow NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson as amember of the station?s Expedition 16 crew.

Melroy saidshe and her crew were confident in recentrepairs to fix cracked insulation on Discovery?s fuel tank. Engineersdiscovered the cracks after a piece of fuel tank debris dingedthe Endeavour orbiter during its launch last month.

?I have alot of confidence in our tank,? Melroy said. ?I?m hopeful that everything isgoing to go well.?

The shuttlecommander stressed that NASA?s astronaut corps is filled with dedicatedprofessionals, despite poor publicity stemming from the arrest of formerspaceflyer Lisa Nowak and anonymous allegations of alcohol abuse earlier thisyear.

?I don?tthink that you could possibly set a higher standard for us than what we set forourselves,? Melroy said.

ForParazynski, Discovery?s launch will mark his fifth flight into space and likelybe one to remember.

?In a sense,there?s a sensory overload,? Parazynski said, adding that each shuttle flighthas allowed him to absorb more of the spaceflight experience. ?It?s going to be magical?wonderful.?

  • Video Interplayer: NASA's STS-118 Shuttle Mission
  • IMAGES: Endeavour's STS-118 Launch to the ISS
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage


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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.