Shuttle Astronauts Arrive at NASA Spaceport

Shuttle Astronauts Arrive at NASA Spaceport
Astronauts of space shuttle Discovery from left, Pilot George Zamka, Commander Pamela Melroy, mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli of Italy and mission specialist Daniel Tani trade high fives after their arrival at the landing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2007. (Image credit: AP PHOTO/ John Raoux.)

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? The seven astronauts set to launch aboard NASA?s shuttleDiscovery next week arrived at the agency?s spaceport Friday eager to fly and confidenttheir spacecraft is safe to rocket into orbit.

Shuttlecommander Pamela Melroy said she and her crewmates were satisfied that coatingconcerns for some of Discovery?s wing-mounted heat shield panels have beenresolved as they look ahead to a planned 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT) launch towardthe International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 23.

?I?m proudto say that that the STS-120 crew is totally confident that the RCC onDiscovery is ready to protect us on our ride home,? Melroy said of the 44reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels that bear the brunt of the searing hottemperatures of atmospheric reentry during shuttle landings.

The panelsare designed the nearly 3,000-degree Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius), thoughengineers foundindications of defects in the exterior coating on three of Discovery?spanels.

Melroy saidshe took heart in the fact that NASA managers and engineers spent some 12 hoursdiscussing their concerns before declaring Discovery fit to fly earlier thisweek. The STS-120 crew also reviewed their findings and was able to askquestions, she added.

?I feelvery confident that everybody?s voice was heard,? Melroy told reporters after hercrew arrived here on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) runway at 1:18 p.m. EDT(1718 GMT).

Melroy,NASA?s second femaleshuttle commander, and her crewmates are set to launch NASA?s STS-120mission to continue space station assembly high above Earth. The Discoveryastronauts will deliver a new connecting node, relocate an older solar arraysegment and test shuttle heat shield repair techniques during the fivespacewalks planned for their 14-day spaceflight.

Launchinginto space with Melroy will be shuttle pilot George Zamka and missionspecialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, Daniel Taniand European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

?We?re likea bunch of kids on Christmas Eve here, full of anticipation, both personal and professional,? Parazynski told reporters.

Discovery?screw will install the Harmony connecting module at the ISS, where it will serveas the anchor for future international laboratories still to fly. The shuttleis also ferrying Tani to the ISS where he will replace NASA astronaut ClaytonAnderson as a member of the space station?s Expedition 16 crew.

?There?s atime when you need to talk?and there?s a time to go do it,? Melroy said. ?And I?mhappy to say that we?re really here, and we?re going to go do it.?

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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.