Astronaut Tim Kopra Hurt In Bike Accident, Removed From Discovery Shuttle Mission
The agency selected Steve Bowen to replace Kopra and said the crew change should not affect the mission's target launch date. STS-133 is slated for launch on Feb.24 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
However, Kopra could potentially rejoin the crew if for some reason STS-133 experiences a significant schedule slippage, said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. STS-133 has been grounded since its initial launch attempt last November due to weather and technical issues.
Whitson said Kopra is "doing fine and expects a full recovery." Further details about his condition were not disclosed due to medical confidentiality.
The crew swap-- six weeks before a scheduled launch—makes it the closest one to a launch date in the shuttle program's history. Astronauts have been replaced in shuttle missions eight previous times, Whitson said.
Bowen, who flew on Atlantis' STS-132 mission in May 2010, will be the first astronaut ever to fly on consecutive missions. He will begin training this week with the STS-133 crew, which includes commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott.
STS-133's 11-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module--an external platform that holds large equipment and critical spare components for the station, as well as Robonaut 2-- the first human-like robot in space.
Last week, NASA also named a backup commander for Endeavour's STS-134 mission in April. The mission's regular commander, Mark Kelly, is caring for his wife, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
STS-134 may be the final or second-to-last shuttle mission before NASA retires the orbiters this year.