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Practice Makes Perfect for STS-116 Crew
10.16.06
 
With the most complex and energetic mission ahead of them, the seven crew members of upcoming space shuttle mission STS-116 were at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week to participate in the Crew Equipment Interface Test.

Mission STS-116 Mission Specialist Sunita Williams arrives at Kennedy. Image left: Mission Specialist Sunita Williams arrives at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility for the Crew Equipment Interface Test. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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For three days, the astronauts had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the orbiter controls and its payloads before Discovery's scheduled launch in December.

Discovery was NASA's third space shuttle orbiter to join the fleet in November 1983. After checkout and processing, it was launched on Aug. 30, 1984, for its first mission. Discovery has completed more than 30 successful missions, surpassing the number of flights made by any other orbiter in NASA's fleet.

STS-116 Commander Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Sunita Williams and Nicholas Patrick inspect fight hardware. Image right: Mission Specialists Sunita Williams (left) and Nicholas Patrick and Commander Mark Polansky inspect flight hardware at the SPACEHAB Payload Processing Facility at Port Canaveral, Fla. Image credit: NASA/Kim Schiflett
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The shuttle will deliver another truss segment and a SPACEHAB element to the International Space Station. During two spacewalks, astronauts will completely rewire the electrical system that will supply the station with a permanent power-generating source.

Leading the team is Commander Mark Polansky, who previously served as a pilot for Atlantis on mission STS-98 in February 2001.

Mission STS-116 Pilot William Oefelein at the SPACEHAB Payload Processing Facility. William Oefelein will make his first journey into space as the pilot for the STS-116 mission.

Image left: Pilot William Oefelein listens intently during the crew training at Kennedy. Image credit: NASA/Kim Schiflett
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Mission Specialist Robert Curbeam is a veteran of two space shuttle flights. He served as the robotic arm operator on STS-85 in August 1997 and logged more than 19 hours during three spacewalks on STS-98.

Mission STS-116 Mission Specialists Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang, inspect flight hardware. Joan Higginbotham, mission specialist, will operate the station's robotic arm to assist with the construction of the space station.

Image right: Mission Specialists Robert Curbeam and Christer Fuglesang, who is with the European Space Agency, take a look at some of the payload components they'll be working with during the mission. Image credit: NASA/Kim Schiflett
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Making his shuttle flight debut is former flight instructor and member of the 1998 astronaut class, Mission Specialist Nicholas Patrick.

Christer Fuglesang, a mission specialist from the European Space Agency, is also making his first shuttle voyage.

STS-116 Mission Specialists Sunita Williams, Joan Higginbotham and Nicholas Patrick look over flight hardware. Image left: Mission Specialists Sunita Williams (left), Joan Higginbotham and Nicholas Patrick check out the flight hardware, a routine part of astronaut training and launch preparations. Image credit: NASA/Kim Schiflett
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Flight Engineer Sunita Williams will stay on the station with the Expedition 14 team after arriving there on Discovery.

The crew members of STS-116 have been training long and hard for this flight, and their days at Kennedy will keep them keen and sharp for the challenging mission ahead.

 
 
Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center