Injured astronaut Tim Kopra is being replaced by two-time shuttle veteran Steve Bowen for shuttle Discovery’s planned mission to the space station next month.
“Tim is doing fine and expects a full recovery; however, he will not be able to support the launch window next month,” NASA’s chief astronaut Peggy Whitson said in a statement.
“If for some unanticipated reason (the mission) slips significantly, it is possible that Tim could rejoin the crew,” she added.
The flight already has been on hold since November to fix cracks in the shuttle’s fuel tank. It is scheduled for launch on Feb. 24, one of the final flights in the shuttle program before the fleet is retired this year.
The swap-out of Kopra, who was injured while biking on Saturday, with Bowen was the second crew personnel issue NASA faced in as many weeks.
The commander of the April flight of shuttle Endeavour, currently NASA’s last planned mission, is Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a Jan. 8 shooting outside a Tucson grocery store that left six dead and 14 wounded.
On ABC’s 20/20 last night, Kelly said he’s not sure about whether he’ll rejoin his crew for flight. NASA last week named a backup commander in case Kelly doesn’t fly.
Since the shooting, Kelly has been with his wife at a Tucson hospital where she was taken after being shot through the head.
“I’ve flown in space three times. I don’t have to do it again. My goal is to make sure that my crew is safe and they can execute this mission safely,” Kelly said. “My number one priority is her. Ideally, I’ll have this discussion with her. I’ll consider what she says. Hopefully we can make this decision jointly.”
(Image: Ground astronaut Tim Kopra. Credit: NASA)