CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (AP) - The six astronauts on Discovery’s final flight are making space shuttle history. One never expected to be on board.
Astronaut Stephen Bowen was added to the crew just last month, replacing lead spacewalker Timothy Kopra, who was hurt in a bicycle wreck. There’s never been a shuttle crew shake-up so close to flight.
Kopra helped train Bowen for a pair of spacewalks at the International Space Station.
“We’re all disappointed that he’s not going to be here,” said commander Steven Lindsey. But if it wasn’t for Kopra’s assistance, “we couldn’t have pulled this off in four weeks of training.”
Discovery’s all-veteran crew includes two former space station residents.
A brief look at the astronauts who blasted into orbit Thursday on Discovery’s 39th and last mission:
Commander Steven Lindsey admits it’s “really cool” being the last person to skipper Discovery. At the same time, it will be sad when it comes time for him to call “wheels stop” at the end of the flight.
He quickly ticks off all of Discovery’s accomplishments: returning the shuttle fleet to flight following two disasters, delivering observatories, traveling to the space station.
“We’re flying on the shoulders of thousands of people over the years, and 30 years of history with this program,” he said. “We’re fortunate enough to be in the cockpit, but we’re representing all of them.”
Lindsey, 50, a retired Air Force colonel from Temple City, Calif., is making his fifth shuttle flight and his third aboard Discovery. He flew alongside Mercury astronaut John Glenn on Discovery in 1998, then traveled twice to the space station before taking a turn as NASA’s chief astronaut. He has been an astronaut since 1995 and is uncertain about his future plans.
He and wife Diane have three children ranging in age from 18 to the mid-20s.
Pilot Eric Boe considers his life part science fiction.
“I look at the space shuttle and to me, there’s nothing cooler from a science fiction perspective than to see real science fiction,” he said. “It’s still amazing now. I look at it in wonderment.”