Discovery astronauts arrive at the Cape for launch
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: December 3, 2006
The astronauts - commander Mark Polansky, pilot William Oefelein, Nicholas Patrick, Robert Curbeam, European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang, Joan Higginbotham and Sunita "Suni" Williams - flew in aboard five two-seat T-38 jets shortly before 4 p.m.
Discovery's countdown is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. Monday, targeted for a launch attempt at 9:36 p.m. Thursday night. It will be NASA's first night shuttle launch since 2002.
"Thank you all for coming out to see us today," Polansky said at the shuttle runway. "The STS-116 crew is absolutely just thrilled to be down here for launch week. We're going to go ahead and hopefully have one heck of a night show to give everybody this Thursday night. We're looking forward to the mission."
"I'm just really happy to be here, it's been a long time coming," said Williams, a former Navy diver and helicopter pilot. She said space station cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin "called the other day and said 'Suni, we're waiting for you.' So, I just can't wait to get to my new home and I'm really happy for the opportunity."
Monday afternoon, Russian flight controllers plan to fire rocket engines aboard a Progress supply ship docked to the aft port of the Zvezda command module to boost the space station's orbit. The 21-minute burn will permit Discovery to dock on the third day of its mission for any launch between Dec. 7 and Dec. 23.
A reboost maneuver was aborted last week when on-board software concluded pre-set limits on how far the station could "yaw" to one side would be exceeded. Engineers plan to relax those limits for the burn Monday to complete the maneuver.
Without it, the shuttle can launch Dec. 7, 9, 11, 13, 15-22, 24 and 26, the end of Discovery's launch window.