After more than four months in orbit, it’s time for the
Expedition One crew to make way for the second group of space
explorers aboard the International Space Station. Space Shuttle
Discovery is set to take the Expedition Two crew into orbit the
morning of March 8. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:42 a.m. EST.

Discovery clears the way for a space station shift-change
during STS-102 and brings an Italian-made cargo carrier, filled
with laboratory experiments and equipment.

“This will be the fifth space shuttle launch in the past seven
months, and each of those missions has been safe, fully
successful and, relative to its challenge and complexity,
almost deceptively smooth,” said Space Shuttle Program Manager
Ron Dittemore. “That record is a testament to the excellent
work that has been done by all members of the space shuttle and
space station teams coast to coast. Discovery is ready and so
are we.”

Discovery will be commanded by Jim Wetherbee. Jim Kelly will be
the shuttle’s pilot, and Andy Thomas and Paul Richards will
serve as mission specialists. Discovery also will carry
the second expedition crew — Russian Commander Yury Usachev
and Flight Engineers
Jim Voss and Susan Helms, both American astronauts — to the
International Space Station.

At the end of its almost 12-day flight, Discovery will bring
home the first station crew, Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot
Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev, completing
more than four months spent in orbit aboard the complex.
Discovery also will take aloft the first station logistics
carrier, an Italian-built logistics module named Leonardo,
filled with the first major laboratory experiments as well as
key equipment.

Discovery is planned to land March 20 at NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center, FL.