Astronaut breaks hip, replaced in STS-133 lineup


Astronaut Tim Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident last weekend. Photo Credit: NASA

The crew of STS-133 has had to cope with the numerous tech issues related to both the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) and to a larger extent the cracks that have been repeatedly cropped up around the orbiter’s intertank region. Now they have a new issue to contend with – an injured crewmember.

Astronaut Tim Kopra, who was involved in a bicycle accident over the weekend apparently has broken his hip – and will more than likely not be able to fly with the rest of his crewmates when Discovery launches on her final mission, currently scheduled to take place on Feb. 24th. The accident took place on Jan. 15, leaving little over a month before he is scheduled to launch. 

Kopra, 47, is part of a six member crew that will mark the final time that space shuttle Discovery will take to the skies. He was scheduled to be the primary spacewalker on the upcoming STS-133 mission, and is a U.S. Army colonel (retired). Kopra has since been replaced on the mission by spaceflight veteran Steve Bowen – however given the fluid nature of Discovery’s launch window – Kopra might not be totally out of the running.

“Tim is doing fine and expects a full recovery; however, he will not be able to support the launch window next month,” said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “If for some unanticipated reason STS-133 slips significantly, it is possible that Tim could rejoin the crew.” 

NASA said that despite this crew change, the current launch date will not be impacted. Bowen will start training with the rest of the STS-133 crew this week.

STS-133 is scheduled to deliver the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM). Contained within the PMM is the first humanoid robot to fly into space – Robonaut 2 (R2). Discovery will also transport much-needed spare parts to the orbiting laboratory.

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