Yikes! No wonder the rollout of space shuttle Discovery took a little bit longer than usual. Lightning lit up the sky above Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday morning, providing a stunning backdrop for the shuttle’s crawl to the launchpad. Usually the trip takes about six hours, but various weather-related concerns slowed the move out past 11 hours. Lightning delayed Discovery’s exit from the Vehicle Assembly Building for about 2 hours, and then mud from recent thunderstorms forced the crawler to stop repeatedly so engineers could clean out the giant treads on the huge 5.5 million-pound (2.4 million-kg) vehicle that hauls shuttles out to the launch pad. Discovery is scheduled to launch on August 25 for the STS-128 mission to the ISS. Of interest is that this mission will bring the C.O.L.B.E.R.T treadmill to the station, an exercise device named after comedian Stephen Colbert.
Discovery will carry the Leonardo supply module to the International Space Station during STS-128, along with several refrigerator-sized racks with equipment and supplies, and a new crew member for the station, Nicole Stott. The mission will be commanded by veteran astronaut Rick “C.J.” Sturckow, along with Pilot Kevin Ford and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez, John “Danny” Olivas and Sweden’s Christer Fuglesang.