The seven member crew of the next space shuttle mission arrived late this morning at the Kennedy Space Center for a few days of countdown practice and safety training prior to their late-August launch.
The crew departed Houston, Texas for Cape Canaveral at 8:50 am EDT, in four T-38A jets. The crew was diverted up to Montgomery, Alabama's Maxwell, AFB, due to a large red storm cell south of Mobile and in the normal flight path most crews take when making this route.
Led by commander Rick "C.J." Sturckow, the crew of Discovery's STS-128 mission include pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Christer Fuglesang and Nicole Stott, the crew began arriving at Kennedy beginning at 11:37 am EDT, followed by several more jets carrying the rest of the crew.
This afternoon, the crew will travel over to an area between Launch Pads 39 A & B for a few armoured carrier driving lessons. The crew will practice in the M113 emergency evacuation vehicle - something NASA keeps near the pad on launch day in case a serious issue occurs and the crew needs a quick, safe get away.
On Friday, the flight crew will depart for pad 39-A to board Discovery for a mock countdown dress rehearsal with the launch control center.
"We are very happy to be down here in Florida," mission commander Sturckow stated at Noon EDT. His pilot Ford added, "(We) had a great look of the rocket sitting on the pad" as they flew over the Space Coast.
Stott chimed in with "It's like coming home... so it's great to be here and seeing old friends". Stott worked at Kennedy in support of processing the space shuttle orbiters for their missions beginning in the late-1980's.
Discovery is marching toward an August 25th launch target date. Repairs on the pad of a rocket booster nozzle valve is the prime issue pad workers are involved with. Another issue is the liquid hydrogen gaseous flow line valve connection to the mid section of the external fuel tank. An issue which plagued two previous shuttle missions this year will be closely focused upon as the launch team moves toward August 25.
The STS-128 payload canister was transferred to the pad hours following the shuttle stacks arrival at the pad late yesterday. Inside, is the Italian logistics module Leonardo, filled with major racks of experiments, food, supplies and a new treadmill all for the international space station.
If Discovery does launch in late-August, it would occur exactly 25 years to the week of her first launch on STS-41D, on August 30, 1984.