Shuttle Astronauts Ham it up in Launch Practice

Shuttle Astronauts Ham it up in Launch Practice
The STS-120 crew walks out for launch rehearsal. In the left row are: (from front) pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Stephanie Wilson, Daniel Tani, and Scott Parazynski. In the right row are: (from front) commander Pam Melroy and mission specialists Doug Wheelock and Paolo Nespoli.
(Image: © NASA/Kim Shiflett.)

CAPE CANAVERAL - Acollection of kidders who employ hilarity to handle stress, Discovery'sastronauts wound up a practice countdown Wednesday with a bit of playfulness.

Led by veteran astronautPam Melroy, crew members are pilot George Zamka and mission specialists ScottParazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, Dan Tani and Paolo Nespoli ofthe European Space Agency.

All wore bright orangepartial-pressure spacesuits and boarded Discovery for the dress rehearsal for theirplanned Oct. 23 launch.

A close look showed thatMelroy, who will be only the second woman to command a shuttle mission, waswearing a nametag that read "Pambo." The nickname was given to her by formerastronaut Brian Duffy. The rest of the crew followed suit.

Velcroed on Zamka's chestwas a name tag that read "Zambo." Parazynski, who is about 6 feet 4inches tall, was "Longbow."

Wilson, a robot armoperator, was "Robeau," and Wheelock -- a guy who can start acampfire with wet sticks -- was "Flambo."

Tani, the second Asian-Americanto fly in space, was "Bo-Ichi," and Nespoli was just"Rocky" because no one could figure out a good "Bo"nickname for the Italian astronaut, who looks a little like Sylvester Stallone.

Known at acronym-happy NASAas the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, the training exerciseenables launch engineers and astronaut crews to walk through the steps they'lltake on launch day. But the drill has been known for occasional merrymaking.

Astronauts training for atop-secret military mission in 1989 left crew quarters wearing funny fedoras,cavalry hats and party hats the day before Halloween.

Two years later, on the dayafter Halloween, another crew walked out wearing dark glasses and hairlessskull caps in honor of bald astronaut Story Musgrave.

For Melroy's crew,amusement is just part of life.

"That is how thisgroup of individuals copes with stress," the veteran astronaut said in arecent interview. "A couple of them are just hysterical. And it's veryhard, even when things are stressful and bad to be depressed when you aredoubled over laughing."

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