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Launch countdown for Discovery

The countdown to launch of Space Shuttle Discovery continues at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Discovery is due to launch today at 17:38 CEST (15:38 GMT) on flight STS-120, a mission to install the Italian-built Node 2 module on the ISS.

There is currently a 60-percent chance that weather at the launch site will delay today's launch. Weather conditions are expected to improve slightly on Wednesday and Thursday.

The seven STS-120 crew members, including ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

As well as exchanging a member of the Station's permanent crew, and the challenging operation of repositioning a set of solar arrays, the STS-120 crew is responsible for the safe delivery of the Italian-built Node 2 connecting module - an important step in the continued construction of the International Space Station.
Nespoli's mission has been named 'Esperia' after the Ancient Greek name for the Italian peninsula. During the 14-day mission Nespoli will play a key role as the intravehicular activity (IVA) astronaut for three of the five scheduled spacewalks, including the installation of Node 2. He will also conduct a joint ESA/ASI programme of human physiology and biology experiments, as well as a number of educational activities.

Nespoli's mission stems from six flight opportunities granted to the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for their provision of three pressurised cargo containers (Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules, or MPLMs) to NASA under a bilateral agreement. The close cooperation between ESA and ASI led to the assignment of Nespoli, a member of the European Astronaut Corps, for this ASI flight opportunity.

The countdown to launch of STS-120 and the Esperia Mission can be viewed on NASA TV - coverage starts at 12:30 CEST (10:30 GMT):

Markus Bauer | EurekAlert!
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