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Astronauts Finish Launch Practice


*Astronauts Finish Launch Practice*

The STS-120 astronauts capped off three days of exercises and training 
at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida by boarding space shuttle 
Discovery for a simulated countdown Wednesday morning. After the 
rehearsal concluded, the crew members flew back to their home base in 
Houston to complete their final preparations for the targeted launch of 
Discovery on Oct. 23.

Image Above: The STS-120 crew poses just outside Discovery's hatch. The 
astronauts are, left to right, Mission Specialists Scott Parazynski , 
Stephanie Wilson, Commander Pam Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, Mission 
Specialists Paolo Nespoli, Doug Wheelock (front) and Dan Tani. Image 
credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
+ View larger image 

While the astronauts practiced for launch, shuttle program managers 
started two days of meetings Tuesday in preparation for next week's 
Flight Readiness Review, which is scheduled for Oct. 16.

One of the topics discussed before the conclusion of the program review 
Wednesday involved the reinforced carbon carbon, or RCC, on Discovery’s 
wing leading edge panels. In the past, there have been post-flight 
indications that the edges of a couple of panels have lost small amounts 
of their upper-level coating. Thermography, or thermal imagery, has been 
used to inspect the panels in order to identify any internal defects 
that could lead to coating loss.

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) has been working with 
shuttle engineers to better understand the potential causes of coating 
loss. At Wednesday's meeting, NESC recommended replacing three of 
Discovery's 44 panels.

Discovery has flown at least twice with these panels in the current 
condition, and with no indications of degradation based on thermography. 
At this point, the Space Shuttle Program has determined that Discovery's 
astronauts can safely carry out their mission without having to replace 
the panels.

*Mission Information*
+ STS-120 Mission Overview 
+ Harmony Node 2 

+ Space Shuttle Discovery 

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