The spaceshuttle Discovery rolled out to its Florida launch pad early Saturday as NASA preparesto launch a massive Japanese laboratory later this month.
Commandedby veteran astronaut Mark Kelly, Discovery?s seven-astronaut crew is set tolaunch May 31 from NASA?s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Fla., todeliver Japan?sKibo module, the largest laboratory planned for the International SpaceStation (ISS).
?We?rereally excited to be within 30 days [of liftoff],? Kelly told reporters thisweek. ?We?re looking forward to the next three weeks of training and then the launch.?
Kelly andhis STS-124 crew plan to perform three spacewalks to install and outfit the 37-foot(11-meter) long Kibo during their 13-dayconstruction mission. They will also move the tour bus-sized ?Kibo?s attic-likestorage module from a temporary perch at the ISS to the main module duringthe flight.
Shuttleengineers hauled Discovery and its attached external fuel tank and rocketboosters to their Launch Pad 39A launch site at KSC at about 6:06 a.m. EDT (1006GMT). The move actually started late Friday at about 11:47 p.m. EDT (0347 GMT),when Discovery began the slow 3.4-mile (5.4-km) trek to the launch pad atopNASA?s massive crawler transporter vehicle.
?Everythinghas been going extremely well,? said NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel of KSC.
Discovery?slaunch preparations have gone so smoothly that shuttle workers have a full sevendays of cushion time, where none existed earlier, to handle any unforeseenglitches, Beutel told SPACE.com.
Kelly andhis STS-124 crew plan to head to KSC next week to rehearse launch dayactivities aboard Discovery. Their spaceflight will mark NASA?s third shuttlemission of up to five planned for the year.