15 March 2009

T minus 6 hours and counting

Barring any (more) last-minute delays, our friends at NASA will be launching Space Shuttle Discovery tonight at 7:43pm EDT = 11:43pm GMT. Here she is on the the launchpad looking all beautiful and ready to slip the surly bonds of Earth:

You can watch live on NASA TV or SpaceVidcast and for total immersion, you might also consider following the launch on Twitter. I'll be live-tweeting the launch but why not also follow the source @NASA, @SSDiscovery, @sts119 and other reliable space tweeps like @BadAstronomer and @Nancy_A?

This is Space Shuttle Mission STS-119 (the 28th shuttle mission to the International Space Station) led by Air Force Col. Lee Archambault and piloted by Navy Cmdr. Tony Antonelli with mission specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata. Only Wakata will remain on the station, to serve as a flight engineer for Expeditions 18 and 19.

Wakata will be joined later this month by fellow Expedition 19 crew members Commander Gennady Padalka and (Beagle Project collaborator! -->) Flight Engineer Michael Barratt, who, together with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi (yes, the same Charles Simonyi who endowed Richard Dawkins' professorship at Oxford) will launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 26 at 7:49 a.m. Coverage plans for the Soyuz launch can be found here.

Don't miss the cool Expedition 19 photo gallery (see link in right sidebar) featuring Mike and the others in their various space regalia. For more about the different missions to the station and how they relate to each other, see the ISS news page.

An eerily pretty Soyuz rocket makes its way to the launch site at Baikonur Cosmodrome by rail. Credit: NASA

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