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NASA's Shuttle Discovery Begins Mission to the Space Station

> Dec. 9, 2006
> Jessica Rye/Katherine Trinidad
> Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
> 321-867-2468
> CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The space shuttle Discovery and its 
> seven-member crew lifted off Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space 
> Center at 8:47 p.m. EST on one of the most complex missions ever to 
> the International Space Station. 
> Shortly before launch, Discovery's Commander Mark Polansky said he and 
> his crew were excited to continue assembly of the station, "We look 
> forward to lighting up the night sky and rewiring ISS." 
> After hearing of the successful liftoff, Expedition 14 Commander 
> Michael Lopez-Alegria told Mission Control in Houston "We'll leave 
> the light on," in anticipation of the space shuttle crew's arrival, 
> now scheduled for Monday. 
> Low clouds delayed Discovery's launch on Thursday night. After 
> standing down on Friday, weather was much better for Saturday's 
> launch. 
> During the 12-day mission, designated STS-116, a new structural 
> component will be added to the station. Shuttle and station crews 
> will work with ground teams to install the P5 truss. This latest 
> addition to the station's backbone weighs 4,000 pounds and will 
> extend the left side of the truss to allow future solar panels to 
> rotate. 
> The mission also includes extensive work to reconfigure the station's 
> electrical and cooling systems from temporary to permanent mode. 
> During the mission, ground control will shut down and reroute the 
> station's power in stages so that the astronauts can reconfigure the 
> power system and make the P4 solar arrays delivered during the last 
> mission fully operational. This complex operation has never been done 
> before. Part of an existing solar panel will be retracted to allow 
> the P4 arrays to track the sun for a full 360 degrees and provide 
> power to the rest of the station. 
> As part of these operations, the station's temporary cooling system 
> will be deactivated and a permanent system will become operational. 
> The station's newest resident will also be traveling aboard Discovery. 
> Astronaut Sunita Williams joins the Expedition 14 crew. Thomas 
> Reiter, a European Space Agency astronaut who has been aboard the 
> station since July, will return to Earth with the Discovery crew. 
> Williams is scheduled to spend six months on the station. 
> Discovery's crew is Polansky, Pilot Bill Oefelein and mission 
> specialists Bob Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, 
> Williams and Christer Fuglesang, a European Space Agency astronaut. 
> For the latest information about the STS-116 mission and its crew, 
> visit: 
> http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle
> -end-
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