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NASA gives go-ahead for Discovery shuttle launch on May 31

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 19, 2008
NASA on Monday gave the green light to launch the space shuttle Discovery on May 31 for a mission to the International Space Station, officials said.

The Discovery's 14-day mission will include three spacewalks and is to be the second of three missions on which astronauts will install components of the Japanese Kibo laboratory.

The launch is scheduled for 5:02 pm (2102 GMT) at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The crew plans to install a pressurized module and a robotic arm system on the Kibo, which will be the largest and final laboratory at the space station. The first installation was delivered in March.

The mission will also deliver a new member to the space station team -- Greg Chamitoff -- and bring back flight engineer Garrett Reisman who has been in space for three months.

"It's an extremely complicated mission, but the team is well prepared with many options and backup in case any problem come up," said William Gerstenmaier, associated administrator for space operations.

The Discovery mission marks the third for the shuttle this year out of four which have been planned. The final mission, which could take place October 8, aims to repair the Hubble telescope.

The Discovery launch will mark the 10th since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas in February 2003, and there are 10 more planned before the current fleet is retired in October 2010 according to shuttle manager John Shannon.

After the Discovery's May launch, seven more flights will be necessary to complete the assembly of the International Space station.

Two more launches are planned to bring spare parts necessary for station maintenance in the coming years, Gerstenmaier said.

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Discovery's Launch Date Confirmed: May 31
Houston TX (SPX) May 20, 2008
Space shuttle Discovery's STS-124 mission is officially scheduled for launch May 31. The announcement was made in an afternoon news conference held at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida following today's executive-level Flight Readiness Review.

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