The next flight of Space Shuttle Discovery will carry the three members of the Expedition Two crew to their new home on orbit aboard the International Space Station; the launch is now scheduled for 6:42 a.m. EST, Thursday, March 8.
This mission will also mark the homecoming of the Expedition One crew, the first three space explorers to inhabit the orbiting international platform. That crew will be returning to Earth aboard Discovery.
"Between the crew exchange, the first use of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, and the installation of the first scientific racks inside the U.S. Laboratory Destiny, we are looking forward to a very busy and productive mission," said Mike Hawes, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Station at NASA Headquarters.
Along with exchanging a crew in orbit, the shuttle will carry the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. Built by the Italian Space Agency, Leonardo will serve as the station's moving van, allowing the shuttle to ferry experiments, supplies and cargo back and forth during missions. For this mission, it carries the Human Research Facility, the first research payload to be installed in the U.S. Laboratory. The facility will open the door for research in expanding fields of biology, chemistry, physics and commercialization.
Discovery's Commander is Jim Wetherbee, who makes his fifth flight into space. Pilot Jim Kelly and Mission Specialists Andy Thomas and Paul Richards make up the rest of the shuttle's primary crew.
The Expedition Two crew is made up of Russian Commander Yury Usachev and American astronauts James Voss and Susan Helms. This is a reunion of sorts for this second expedition. Last year, all three crewmembers members flew to the space station on the shuttle Atlantis during STS-101.
Commander Usachev has spent a total of 376 days in space and performed six spacewalks during two missions to the Russian Mir space station. Voss, who will serve as a flight engineer, has flown on four previous shuttle missions. Helms, the second flight engineer for Expedition Two, has nearly 1,100 hours in space and has also flown on four previous shuttle missions. She will also be the station's first female resident.
The arrival of the second expedition marks a milestone in space station operations as the new crew transitions from creating a habitable home to inaugurating research operations on a permanent basis.
"During this mission, the Expedition Two crew will conduct a number of experiments that will further our knowledge of the space environment and its impact on the human body," Hawes said. "This would not have been possible without the hard work of the Expedition One crew and the shuttle assembly crews of the past few months, who have installed the U.S. Laboratory Destiny and ensured the station has ample power to operate."
For more than four months, the crew of Expedition One, led by American Commander Bill Shepherd, have been testing systems, installing equipment and preparing the space station for its long-term mission of space-based research. Shepherd, along with his Russian cosmonaut crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev catch a ride back to Earth at the end of Discovery's mission.
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