NASA has cleared the Space Shuttle to Return to Flight. After a two-day Flight Readiness Review meeting at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, senior managers approved a July 13 launch date for Discovery.
Commander Eileen Collins and her crew are scheduled to lift off at 3:51 p.m. EDT on the first U.S. space flight since the February 2003 loss of the Shuttle Columbia.
"After a vigorous, healthy discussion our team has come to a decision: we're ready to go," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said after the meeting. "The past two and half years have resulted in significant improvements that have greatly reduced the risk of flying the Shuttle. But we should never lose sight of the fact that space flight is risky.
"The Discovery mission, designated STS-114, is a test flight," Griffin said, noting that astronauts will try out a host of new Space Shuttle safety enhancements. In addition, Discovery will carry 15 tons of supplies and replacement hardware to the International Space Station. July 13 is the beginning of three weeks of possible launch days that run through July 31.
NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, William Readdy, chaired the Flight Readiness Review, the meeting that traditionally sets launch dates and assesses the Shuttle's fitness to fly.
"Today's decision is an important milestone in returning the Shuttle to service for the country. Our technical and engineering teams are continuing their in-depth preparations to ensure that Eileen and her crew have a successful mission," he said.
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