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Return To Flight: Milestones Galleries

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Houston homecoming for Discovery crew

August 10, 2005 -- The STS-114 crew took to the stage at Ellington Field today as their family members, friends, NASA colleagues and the public welcomed the 'Discovery 7' home to Houston.

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The celebration, which came the day after the astronauts returned from nearly two weeks in space, was held in a NASA hangar decorded with American flags and echoing with marching music. Among the audience were Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Johnson Space Center Director General Jefferson Howell.

Houston Mayor Bill White used the event to present the crew a proclamation officially naming August 10, 2005 as 'Discovery STS-114 Day.'

Each of the crew members took a turn at the podium to express their happiness with the mission and dedicated belief in NASA's continued reach into space.

"I want to give my thanks to the people I've worked with," said Eileen Collins.

"Getting the shuttle flying again was difficult work, but it was a labor of love and the people who worked to get this mission flying again did it because they loved it and believed in what they were doing," said the commander.

Following their speeches, the crew met with the audience, posing for photos and signing autographs.

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Return to Earth: Discovery lands safely


August 9, 2005 -- Discovery glided to a pre-dawn landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California this morning concluding a journey of 5.8 million miles, touching down at 7:12 a.m. CDT.

The landing marked the sixth night landing at Edwards Air Force Base, and the 50th time that a shuttle concluded its mission in the California desert.

Commander Eileen Collins and pilot Jim Kelly, assisted by mission specialist Steve Robinson, began Discovery's return by firing the orbital maneuvering system engines to slow its speed and begin its descent. Discovery's ground track took it from the firing of the 2 minute, 42-second de- orbit burn at 6:06 a.m. over the Indian Ocean, traveling in a loop around Australia, northeast across the Pacific, across the California coast north of Los Angeles and then to Edwards.


"We have had a fantastic mission," said Collins after she had performed a walk around of Discovery on the ground. "We are so glad to be able to come back and say it was successful."

Thunderstorms at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida resulted in a wave-off of two opportunities to return to the launch site today.

From the station, Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA Science Officer John Phillips sent their congratulations to Discovery's crew and the flight control team in Houston.

The STS-114 crew will have a welcome home ceremony at 3:00 p.m. August 10 at Ellington Field in Houston, TX.




For photographs taken by the astronauts during the flight of STS-114, see NASA's Human Spaceflight Gallery site.




Returned to Flight: Discovery launches!


July 26, 2005 -- 3... 2... 1... and liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery... beginning America's new journey to the Moon, Mars and beyond... and the vehicle has cleared the tower!

With those words by NASA spokesman George Diller, the crew of STS-114 launched at 9:39 a.m. CDT from Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center.

"We know the folks on planet Earth are just feeling great right now," said Discovery's Commander Eileen Collins after reaching orbit.

During their 12-day mission to the International Space Station, Collins and her six fellow astronauts will test new techniques and equipment designed to make shuttles safer. They'll also deliver supplies and make repairs to the space station after Discovery docks on Thursday.

"I want you to think about what it takes to get millions of different parts from thousands of vendors across the country to work together to produce what you saw here today and to realize how chancy it is, how difficult it is, at what a primitive state of technology it still is," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. "This team managed to do it, and I think a large debt of appreciation is due to them. They have worked as hard as any team in NASA history."

Discovery's first launch attempt July 13 was postponed because of problems related to a liquid hydrogen low-level fuel sensor inside the external fuel tank. Hundreds of engineers across the country worked to analyze and understand the issue. The sensor system was repeatedly tested during today's launch countdown, and it performed without a problem.

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STS-114 crew returns to Discovery

July 26, 2005 -- For the second time in as many weeks, the crew of STS-114 departed their quarters at Kennedy Space Center for Launch Pad 39-B and their ride to orbit, Space Shuttle Discovery.

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Led by Commander Eileen Collins, the crew of seven - Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialists Soichi Noguchi, Stephen Robinson, Wendy Lawrence, Charles Camarda and Andy Thomas - boarded the Astrovan for the short trip out to the pad.

It was not long after arriving at Pad 39-B on July 13 that the crew's first attempt to launch was scrubbed; a faulty low fuel sensor inside the External Tank being found the culprit. Tests conducted during the fueling of Discovery's tank today indicated that the device was working.

As of this morning, the chance of Florida weather causing a violation of launch criteria was at 20%, down from 40% as forecasted last night.

Discovery is set to Return To Flight at 9:39 a.m. CDT.

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Discovery poised for STS-114 launch

July 25, 2005 -- Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-114, NASA's Return to Flight mission, is set for Tuesday at 9:39 a.m. CDT.

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Launch Pad 39B's Rotating Service Structure (RSS) was rolled away from Discovery at 2:38 p.m. today. The giant enveloping appendage is used to install payloads into an orbiter's cargo bay and provide protection from inclement weather.

With the RSS now out of the way, propellant loading is set to begin after midnight Tuesday morning with the pumping of more than 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen into the vehicle's orange External Tank.

The chance of Florida weather cooperating for the launch remains at 60 percent.

First Lady Laura Bush will join other dignitaries and VIPs for liftoff, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced earlier today.

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Discovery's crew departs for the pad

July 13, 2005 -- STS-114 Commander Eileen Collins led the way as the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery walked out from the Operations and Checkout Building en route to Pad 39B for today's Return To Flight launch. The crew boarded the "Astrovan" for their ride to shuttle Discovery.

Despite area rainstorms - including directly over the press site that the crew drives by on their way to the pad - the Astrovan pressed on and the astronauts are now boarding the Space Shuttle for their launch attempt this afternoon.

A NASA security helicopter followed the Astrovan on its road trip to Pad 39B.

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Discovery set for launch after repairs

July 12, 2005 -- Engineers conducted minor repairs to Space Shuttle Discovery late Tuesday after an errant window cover fell from the orbiter and damaged its aft section. The incident will not delay tomorrow's planned launched of the orbiter.

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Earlier today, a soft plastic cover with foam-lined edges fell from one of Discovery's two overhead windows and struck the heat-resistant tiles on the shuttle's left Orbital Maneuvering System pod. No engineers were working in the area at the time, NASA officials said.

The window cover hit a carrier panel lined with three of the black, heat-resistant tiles that protect the orbiter from searing temperatures during atmospheric reentry. Two of those tiles were damaged, prompting engineers to swap out the panel with a spare.

"This is a minor repair for us," said Stephanie Stilson, NASA's vehicle manager for the Discovery orbiter. "We change out carrier panels on a daily basis."

But Discovery is less than 24 hours from launch here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), so engineers at Johnson Space Center in Houston are busy studying the orbiterŐs internal structure to ensure the incident did not cause additional damage.

Stilson said the shuttle window cover that damaged Discovery weighs less than two pounds and fell about 65 feet before it hit the OMS pod. Its carrier panel target is a piece of aluminum which was pre-bonded with tiles before installation on the orbiter, she added.

Engineers discovered the loose window cover during preparations to rollback the rotating service structure that has shrouded Discovery since it arrived at the launch pad on June 15. That rollback was delayed from its planned 7:00 p.m. start due to the needed repairs.

When the RSS finally rolled, it was over three hours after NASA's announced start time.

Tarik Malik with SPACE.com contributed to this report.

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STS-114 crew arrives early for launch

July 9, 2005 -- At approximately 6:30 p.m. EDT this evening, the STS-114 crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the July 13 launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. Landing aboard a NASA Gulfstream II jet, the seven astronauts flew in from Houston a day early to avoid treacherous travel conditions caused by Hurricane Dennis. The crew members will spend their next four days making final preparations for Wednesday's flight to the International Space Station.

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STS-114 crew practices countdown

May 4, 2005 -- The Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-114) crew are going through a countdown dress rehearsal at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, this week, May 1 - 4 in preparation and training for their Return to Flight.

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On Monday, Commander Eileen Collins and Pilot James Kelly flew the Shuttle Training Aircraft at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility as part of the test. Today, the STS-114 crew members took time out of their schedule to answer questions from the media at Launch Pad 39B.

The Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) is held at KSC prior to each Space Shuttle flight. It provides shuttle crews the opportunity to participate in simulated countdown activities. The test ends with a mock launch countdown culminating in a simulated main engine cutoff.

Discovery's crew (as pictured below from left to right): Andy Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Steve Robinson, Eileen Collins, Charles Camarda, Soichi Noguchi and Jim Kelly.

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Shuttle Discovery arrives at launch pad

April 7, 2005 -- NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery arrived at its launch pad completing the next major milestone for Return to Flight of America's Space Shuttle program. The shuttle rolled up to the 39B complex at 12:30 a.m. EDT, approximately three hours later than its scheduled arrival.

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The delay was caused by the needed replacement of a circuit card on the crawler transporter during the final leg of its journey. The crawler is the vehicle which transports the Space Shuttle and its Mobile Launcher Platform to the launch pad. The swapped out card relayed the height of the crawler to its operators while in motion.

The issue occurred during Discovery's initial attempt to climb the incline ramp leading to Pad 39B. Technicians decided to stop the rollout and then reverse Discovery back down the incline ramp to level ground to test and then replace the circuit card. Once the new card was in place, the crawler functioned normally and the rollout was completed. The Space Shuttle remained level and in a safe configuration throughout all movements and during the changeout of the card.

Before rollout began, NASA also found a small hairline crack in the foam on the External Tank, but determined it was a minor imperfection that did not need repair.

Discovery's long trek began at 2:04 p.m. ET Wednesday, when the "stack" -- the Orbiter, External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters -- left the Vehicle Assembly Building for the 4.2 mile journey, moving at barely one mile an hour.

Now in place at the launch pad, shuttle Discovery will continue to be prepared for its launch set for a window of May 15 to June 3.

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Discovery rolls toward a return to flight

March 29, 2005 -- Space Shuttle Discovery made a short roll this morning, advancing its long journey to returning to flight. The orbiter was moved from the processing facility where it was housed for two years to the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building a quarter-mile away.

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"This is a tremendous accomplishment," said Space Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons. "This effort has taken a talented team dedicated to meticulously preparing the vehicle and implementing all the modifications for a safe return to flight," he added.

Workers at Kennedy Space Center are now preparing to lift Discovery by a 300-ton crane to a vertical position and then lower the orbiter onto the External Tank. Once done, Discovery will begin its eight hour journey to launch pad.

Discovery's launch window is from May 15 to June 3. Its mission, STS-114, will take Commander Eileen Collins and six crew members to the International Space Station. It is the first shuttle mission since the Columbia accident in February 2003.

"I could not be more proud of the team that spent the last two years working on Discovery," said Stephanie Stilson, NASA Vehicle Manager for Discovery. "Seeing the orbiter roll to the VAB is the culmination of all of that hard work."

While in the Orbiter Processing Facility, Discovery underwent 41 modifications in response to the Columbia accident including the addition of the new Orbiter Boom Sensor System; equipping the orbiter with cameras and laser systems to inspect the heat shield while in space; sensors in the leading edge of the shuttle's wings; and a new digital camera to view the External Tank at launch.

Discovery also completed its Orbiter Major Modification (OMM) period that began in September 2002. Technicians completed 107 additional modifications to Discovery, 17 will be flying for the first time. OMMs are scheduled at regular intervals to enhance safety and performance and to infuse new technology.

Discovery's roll was delayed from Monday morning, when trouble was encountered aligning the 76-wheel transporter vehicle with the orbiter. A repeated attempt to match and attach the transporter to the space shuttle was completed successfully by mid-afternoon.

The next Return to Flight milestone is scheduled early next week, when Discovery begins its four mile journey to Launch Pad 39-B.

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