NASA on Friday confirmed its lineup for the next space shuttle flight, a mission to test techniques for repairing wing holes like the one that doomed Columbia. The full crew list was first reported on MSNBC.com two weeks ago, based on insider reports.
Four astronuats had long been assigned to the flight, but three more were needed to fill seats that were originally supposed to go to the next crew members of the international space station.
Before the Columbia disaster, NASA shuttles used to carry space station crews to and from the orbiting outpost. Since the accident, the Russian space program has taken over that job.
NASA is instead focusing on shuttle inspections and potential repairs for damage to shuttle thermal tiles and the reinforced carbon panels that make up the leading edges of the wings. The next mission, which would use the space shuttle Atlantis, is scheduled for launch to the space station no earlier than next September.
Last month, NBC News analyst James Oberg reported that the three crew additions were Andrew Thomas, an American-Australian engineer who was the last American to live aboard Russia’s Mir station and has spent the past nine months assisting the families of the Columbia crew; Wendy Lawrence, a Navy captain who flew twice to Mir; and Charles Camarda, a space rookie who has been involved with repair activities at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA did not confirm the additions at the time, but on Friday the space agency released an announcement that listed the full crew for the flight, known as STS-114.
The three astronauts are in training alongside Eileen Collins, NASA’s first and only female shuttle commander, and pilot James Kelly, both Air Force officers; Stephen Robinson, an engineer who flew with John Glenn in 1998; and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, a space rookie.
“STS-114 is going to be a complex developmental test flight, and this crew has the right set of skills and experience to help get the space shuttles safely flying again,” William Readdy, NASA’s associate administrator for spaceflight, said in a written statement. “STS-114 was always slated to have a crew of seven. But now, instead of three crew rotating on and off the international space station, all crew members will be dedicated to the STS-114 mission objectives.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.