Shuttle Discovery's lead spacewalker hurt in accident BY WILLIAM HARWOOD STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION Posted: January 15, 2011
Space station veteran Timothy Kopra, scheduled for launch Feb. 24 aboard the shuttle Discovery, was injured in a bicycle accident Saturday, a NASA official said. The injury was not life threatening and the NASA official, citing medical privacy issues, provided no additional details. But multiple sources said Kopra may have broken his hip, raising the prospect of a significant impact to the already-delayed mission.
Kopra works aboard the space station in 2009. Credit: NASA
In training to serve as flight engineer for launch and entry, Kopra also is the mission's lead spacewalker for a pair of excursions outside the station. He and his crewmates have been in training since September 2009.
"Tim Kopra was injured today in a bicycle accident, but he will be OK," the NASA spokesman said in an email exchange. "However, there could be an impact to his mission duties for STS-133. That concern is still being evaluated. Further details of his injury are not available at this time due to concerns for his medical privacy."
NASA does not train backup crews and a replacement, even a recently flown veteran, would need time to rehearse spacewalk scenarios and receive mission-specific training for Discovery's flight. How long that might take, if required, and what impact it might have on the shuttle's launch date is not yet known.
With only three shuttle missions remaining before the fleet is retired, the accident marked a difficult personal setback for Kopra. In years past, an astronaut who had to miss a flight for medical reasons could look forward to being worked back into the crew rotation for launch on a future flight.
But with only two and possibly three missions left, there are no available seats and depending on the nature of his injury, Kopra could be forced to sit out the shuttle's closing stanzas.
Originally scheduled for launch Nov. 1, Discovery has been repeatedly delayed because of cracks in structural ribs, or stringers, in the ship's external tank. NASA managers announced last week that an engineering analysis had finally revealed the root cause of the cracks and that a relatively straight-forward modification was expected to clear the way for launch Feb. 24.
Discovery's delay, in turn, forced NASA to push back the shuttle Endeavour's launch on the following mission from late February to April 19. But any significant additional delay for Discovery would cause a domino-like slip for Endeavour as well.
Earlier this week, NASA announced that a backup commander -- Frederick Sturckow -- would begin training with Endeavour's crew in place of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, whose wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was critically injured in a Tucson shooting spree Jan. 8. Kelly remains the mission commander and said in a statement Thursday "I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to finish our training."
Kopra exercises aboard the space shuttle in 2009. Credit: NASA
Born in Austin, Texas, Kopra is a retired Army helicopter pilot who served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He attended U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and was selected to join NASA's astronaut corps in 2000.
Kopra has flown in space once, blasting off aboard the shuttle Endeavour July 15, 2009, and serving three months aboard the International Space Station before returning to Earth with the crew of the shuttle Discovery on Sept. 11, 2009. During his stay aboard the station, Kopra completed a five-hour two-minute spacewalk.
Kopra was named to the crew of shuttle mission STS-133 in September 2009, along with commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Barratt and Stott also are space station veterans.
At that time, NASA intended Discovery's flight to be the program's final voyage, following a Bush administration mandate to finish the space station and retire the shuttle fleet by the end of fiscal year 2010.
That somewhat arbitrary deadline was relaxed a bit when Congress, worried about the possibility of schedule pressure on flight safety, promised an additional $600 million in funding to cover shuttle operations through the end of calendar year 2010. NASA managers later said internal cost-savings initiatives would allow shuttle operations to continue into early 2011 if necessary.
As it turned out, problems with a $2 billion particle physics experiment scheduled for launch aboard Endeavour during the next-to-last fight in July 2010 forced NASA to revise the end-of-program shuttle manifest.
Because of work to replace the powerful magnet in the particle physics experiment, Endeavour's flight leap-frogged Discovery's, slipping to late November and eventually to Feb. 27, 2011. Discovery's flight, in turn, slipped from mid September to Nov. 1, in part to accommodate work to modify a cargo transport module for permanent attachment to the space station.
Discovery ran into a variety of technical problems, slipping from Nov. 1 to Nov. 5. A launch try that day was called off because of a gaseous hydrogen leak. That problem was resolved, but the crack issue surfaced in the wake of the scrub, eventually delaying Discovery's flight to Feb. 24 and Endeavour's to April 19.
NASA hopes to close out the shuttle program this summer with a final flight of the shuttle Atlantis.
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Additional coverage for subscribers: VIDEO:
ROOT CAUSE OF SHUTTLE TANK CRACKS FOUND PLAY
WORK UNDERWAY TO REMOVE FOAM AND SENSORS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SETTING UP ACCESS PLATFORMS AROUND TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
SHUTTLE ROLLED BACK TO ASSEMBLY BUILDING PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
DISCOVERY DEPARTS LAUNCH PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
LUNAR ECLIPSE OVER DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FUELING TEST PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
RECAP OF THE FUELING EXERCISE PLAY VIDEO:
FUELING TEST COUNTDOWN UPDATE PLAY VIDEO:
COMMENTS FROM SHUTTLE LAUNCH DIRECTOR PLAY VIDEO:
GROUND UMBILICAL CARRIER PLATE CHECKED PLAY VIDEO:
INFO ON EXTERNAL TANK INSTRUMENTATION PLAY VIDEO:
DETAILED INFORMATION ON SPECIAL FUELING TEST PLAY
SHUTTLE DISCOVERY'S LAUNCH DELAYED TO FEBRUARY PLAY
FINAL PREPS FOR INSTRUMENTED TEST PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
STRAIN GAUGES ATTACHED TO TANK PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
BACKSCATTER INSPECTIONS OF TANK MIDSECTION PLAY | HI-DEF
INSTALLING DOUBLERS OVER STRINGERS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
GASEOUS HYDROGEN VENT ARM RETURNED PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
DOUBLERS TO BEEF UP CRACKED BEAMS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
HYDROGEN FITTING IS REINSTALLED PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
OPENING UP TANK'S ENTRANCE DOOR PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
GUCP DETACHED AND SEALS REMOVED PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
BROKEN FOAM REMOVED FROM THE TANK PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
VENT ARM LETS GO FROM LEAKY GUCP PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
DISCOVERY AWAITS REPAIRS TO TANK PROBLEMS PLAY | HI-DEF
INFORMATIVE DESCRIPTION OF TANK CRACK PROBLEM PLAY VIDEO:
DISCOVERY'S LAUNCH DELAYED TO MID-DECEMBER PLAY
GASEOUS HYDROGEN VENT ARM DETACHED FROM SHUTTLE PLAY
STS-133 MISSION PREVIEW MOVIE PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SHUTTLE DISCOVERY CREW BIOGRAPHIES PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
ISS EXPEDITION 25-26 PREVIEW MOVIE PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SPACE STATION CREW BIOGRAPHIES PLAY | HI-DEF
POST-SCRUB NEWS BRIEFING ON LEAK PLAY VIDEO:
GASEOUS HYDROGEN LEAK SCRUBS LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
BAD WEATHER DELAYS DISCOVERY LAUNCH PLAY VIDEO:
ELECTRICAL ISSUE NO LONGER A CONCERN FOR DISCOVERY PLAY VIDEO:
LAUNCH POSTPONED BY ELECTRICAL CONCERN PLAY VIDEO:
TUESDAY MORNING'S COUNTDOWN STATUS CHECK PLAY VIDEO:
DISCOVERY'S PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY VIDEO:
COUNTDOWN PREVIEW BRIEFING AND WEATHER FORECAST PLAY VIDEO:
ANOTHER 24-HOUR DELAY ORDERED TO FINISH REPAIRS PLAY VIDEO:
LAUNCH DELAYED 24 HOURS BY LEAK REPAIRS PLAY
FLIGHT READINESS REVIEW SETS LAUNCH DATE PLAY
SHUTTLE AND STATION PROGRAM BRIEFING PLAY VIDEO:
THE STS-133 MISSION OVERVIEW PRESENTATIONS PLAY VIDEO:
PREVIEW BRIEFING ON MISSION'S SPACEWALKS PLAY VIDEO:
IN-DEPTH BACKGROUND ON ROBONAUT 2 HUMANOID PLAY VIDEO:
THE ASTRONAUTS' PRE-FLIGHT NEWS BRIEFING PLAY
PAYLOAD BAY DOORS CLOSED FOR LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CREW LEAVES KSC FOR TRIP TO HOUSTON PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
ASTRONAUTS INSPECT THE PAYLOAD BAY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SHUTTLE EVACUATION PRACTICE PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
ASTRONAUTS EGRESS SHUTTLE AS SEEN LIVE PLAY VIDEO:
ASTRONAUTS BOARD DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SUN RISES ON LAUNCH PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
LAUNCH DAY REHEARSAL BEGINS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
COMMEMORATIVE WALL SIGNING IN VAB PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CREW BRIEFED ON EMERGENCY PROCEDURES PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
IN SHUTTLE TRAINING AIRCRAFT'S COCKPIT PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
TEST-DRIVING AN EMERGENCY ARMORED TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH STEVE LINDSEY PLAY VIDEO:
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH ERIC BOE PLAY VIDEO:
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH AL DREW PLAY VIDEO:
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH TIM KOPRA PLAY VIDEO:
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH MIKE BARRATT PLAY VIDEO:
PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH NICOLE STOTT PLAY
PAYLOADS INSTALLED INTO DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
MISSION PAYLOADS ARRIVE AT LAUNCH PAD PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CANISTER HAULING PAYLOADS TURNED UPRIGHT PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
MODULE HOISTED INTO SHIPPING CANISTER PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
WEIGHING NEW SPACE STATION MODULE PLAY | HI-DEF
GANTRY PLACED AROUND DISCOVERY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SHUTTLE ATLANTIS REACHES PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CROWDS WATCH DISCOVERY'S FINAL ROLLOUT PLAY | HI-DEF
SHUTTLE HOISTED FOR ATTACHMENT TO TANK PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CRANE ROTATES THE ORBITER VERTICALLY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
DISCOVERY DEPARTS ITS HANGAR PLAY | HI-DEF
TIME-LAPSE SHOWS DISCOVERY ASCENDING IN VAB PLAY VIDEO:
TIME-LAPSE SHOWS THE MOVE TO ASSEMBLY BUILDING PLAY
DISCOVERY'S MAIDEN FLIGHT: FIRST TRIP TO VAB PLAY VIDEO:
DISCOVERY'S MAIDEN FLIGHT: ROLLOUT TO PAD 39A PLAY VIDEO:
DISCOVERY'S MAIDEN FLIGHT: TEST-FIRING ENGINES PLAY VIDEO:
DISCOVERY'S MAIDEN FLIGHT: ASSORTED VIEWS OF FRF PLAY
THE HISTORY OF SHUTTLE DISCOVERY PLAY VIDEO:
THE HISTORY OF SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR PLAY VIDEO:
THE HISTORY OF SHUTTLE ATLANTIS PLAY
INSPECTION OF THE MISSION PAYLOADS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
ROBONAUT ARRIVES AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
SPACE STATION'S SPARE THERMAL RADIATOR PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
BLANKETING LEONARDO WITH INSULATION PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
RACK INSERTED INTO LEONARDO FOR LAUNCH PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
LEONARDO RETURNS FROM ITS PREVIOUS FLIGHT PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
STATION'S SPARE PARTS DEPOT ARRIVES PLAY | HI-DEF
ORBITER'S PAYLOAD BAY CLOSED FOR ROLLOUT PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
ASTRONAUTS VISIT THEIR SPACECRAFT PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
CREW INSPECTS LEONARDO MODULE PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
DISCOVERY RECEIVES ITS MAIN ENGINES PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
FUEL TANK MATED TO SOLID ROCKET BOOSTERS PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
HOISTING FUEL TANK INTO CHECKOUT BAY PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
EXTERNAL FUEL TANK UNLOADED FROM BARGE PLAY | HI-DEF VIDEO:
MISSION'S FUEL TANK ARRIVES AT SPACEPORT PLAY | HI-DEF
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