The astronauts of the Space Shuttle Discovery got a chance today to work with some of the equipment they will be taking to space. Flight commander Eileen Collins and her crew were at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for the Payload Crew Equipment Interface Test.

The Return to Flight mission of the Space Shuttle (STS-114) is targeted for launch during a window from May 15 to June 3. Returning the Shuttle to flight and completing the International Space Station are the first steps in the Vision for Space Exploration, a stepping-stone strategy toward new exploration goals. STS-114 is the first of two test flights following the Columbia accident. The seven-member Discovery crew will fly to the Station to evaluate procedures for flight safety, including orbiter inspection and repair techniques, and will deliver much-needed supplies.

The astronauts performed tests today to ensure the equipment for the mission’s three spacewalks worked properly, and they inspected the cargo containers installed in the Italian-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, called Raffaello. They performed fit checks on the Thermal Protection System (TPS) repair sample box, the Control Moment Gyro (CMG), and the External Stowage Platform-2 (ESP2).

The sample box contains pieces of the Shuttle’s heat-shielding tile. The samples will enable the crew to test new on-orbit repair techniques recommended by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

The new gyroscope will replace an inoperable one on the International Space Station. CMGs provide attitude control for the Station, keeping it properly positioned in space. The ESP2, similar to a large toolbox, will carry replacement parts to the Station. The platform will be deployed, attached to the Station’s airlock and used as a permanent spare parts facility.

Video b-roll of the crew’s activities is airing on NASA TV, which is available on the Web and via satellite in the continental U.S. on AMC-6, Transponder 9C, C-Band, at 72 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80 MHz. In Alaska and Hawaii, NASA TV is available on AMC-7, Transponder 18C, C-Band, at 137 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 4060.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80 MHz.

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Still photos of today’s payload tests are available on the Internet, at:

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