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Monday, 24 August 2009 18:50

STS-128 liftoff early Tuesday morning with COLBERT

With the space shuttle Discovery packed full of a treadmill named COLBERT and a canister called Leonardo, the NASA STS-128 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to lift off very early Tuesday morning from the Kennedy Space Center; that is, if the weather holds.

The thirteen-day mission to the ISS involves supplying the space station with about eight tons of food, science equipment, spare parts, and even a treadmill named after “The Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert.

The space shuttle Discovery will be fueled Monday afternoon, August 24, 2009 (Florida time), for the 1:36 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), 5:36 UTC, launch.

However, the weather report for the eastern Florida coast, for Sunday, August 23, called for a 40% chance of stormy weather, which could delay the fueling operations and, thus, the launch.

The space shuttle cannot be fueled during weather that includes lightning, which is part of the weather forecast for the area.

The Monday, August 24, weather report calls for an 80% chance of favorable weather for the launch on Tuesday.

When they do launch, the primary goals of the STS-128 mission is to unload over 15,000 pounds (weight on Earth) of supplies, including 400 pounds of food and other such materials from the Leonardo canister.

Page two continues.

The Leonardo canister, named after Italian inventor, mathematician, scientist, and engineer Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), is a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).

It includes a series of experiments for studying microgravity, the condition aboard the space station in which gravity is perceived to be absent (when in actuality it is still present but appears to be absent because the space station is orbiting Earth in a free-fall state).

Much of the cargo for the STS-128 mission involves research supplies. In fact, NASA associate administrator for space operations Bill Gerstenmaier states, "We're really starting to outfit the research capability of the station. Our strong goal over the next five years, until 2015, is to really start utilizing the space station to show that it's a very productive facility." [Florida Today: “'Go' for launch: Discovery will deliver space station supplies and improve science facilities”]

They will also deliver a treadmill nicknamed “Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill,” or COLBERT. The treadmill was nicknamed COLBERT after NASA had a contest to name the Node 3 module for the space station.

Additional background on the contest is found on the March 26, 2009 iTWire article “NASA Nation versus Colbert Nation.”

Although the name COLBERT got the most votes in the contest, NASA decided to name it Tranquility instead.

However, the U.S. space agency did decide to name its second treadmill after TV comedian Steven Colbert, the person who started the write-in campaign while hosting his TV show on Comedy Central.

And, information on the results of the contest appear on the April 16, 2009 iTWire article “Name of Space Station Node 3 surprise to Stephen Colbert.”

Page three concludes.

The STS-128 crew includes commander Frederick “Rick” W. Sturckow, pilot Kevin A. Ford, and mission specialist Patrick G. Forrester, Jose M. Hernández, Christer Fuglesang (with the European Space Agency), John “Danny” Olivas, and Nicole Scott.

Mission specialist Stott will stay on the ISS for a three-month stay, replacing current station flight engineer Tim Kopra.

Kopra will return home on space shuttle Discovery at the end of its mission.

The STS-128 mission also includes three extravehicular activities (EVAs), or spacewalks, involving, Olivas, Fuglesang and Stott, to remove and replace a materials processing experiment outside the ESA’s Columbus module and to return an empty ammonia tank assembly back to Earth.

For additional information on Stephen Colbert, visit the Colbert Nation website.

For the April 14, 2009 episode where NASA astronaut Sunita Williams announced the naming of the Space Station's Node 3 and the treadmill on The Colbert Report, please go to COLBERT treadmill.

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