NASA pulls injured shuttle astronaut off flight

January 19, 2011 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
In this undated file photo provided by NASA, U.S. Army astronaut Col. Tim Kopra poses for a photo. NASA officials say an astronaut who had been slated for a spacewalk on the upcoming shuttle mission has been hurt in a bicycle accident. The space agency said in a release late Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 that Tim Kopra will be OK. But officials are still evaluating if he'll be able to perform his duties when the shuttle Discovery launches to the International Space Station on Feb. 24. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, NASA, File)

(AP) -- An astronaut who crashed his bicycle over the weekend won't be taking part in space shuttle Discovery's final voyage next month.

Astronaut Timothy Kopra suffered unspecified injuries in the accident Saturday, just 1 1/2 months before Discovery's planned liftoff. He is recuperating and on indefinite sick leave.

In a rare swap-out Wednesday, NASA removed Kopra from the crew and added veteran spaceman Stephen Bowen, who flew last May on the most recent shuttle flight. Bowen will take over Kopra's spacewalking duties during the 11-day flight; Kopra had been designated as the lead and was to venture out twice to perform work on the .

The has been on hold since November because of fuel tank cracks. Just last week, NASA said it had finally zeroed in on a cause for the potentially dangerous cracking. Shuttle repair work is continuing inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. Discovery's target launch date is Feb. 24.

This is the second time this month that NASA had had to deal with crew issues.

Last week, NASA named a backup commander for the final flight of Endeavour in April. The official commander, Mark Kelly, remains at the hospital bedside of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz. His identical twin brother, Scott, is flying on the space station right now as its skipper.

Shuttle crew replacements, at such a late date, are uncommon.

The most famous switch occurred 72 hours before Apollo 13 in 1970, after command module pilot Thomas "Ken" Mattingly was exposed to the German measles and yanked from the crew. The three men who flew to the moon on that mission almost didn't make it back alive. An oxygen tank ruptured en route, and it took all of the astronauts' effort and the ingenuity of Mission Control to safely return the crew to Earth.

To cut down on preflight injuries, NASA has a whole list of prohibited activities for astronauts assigned to space missions. Among the banned high-risk sports: skiing, parachuting and acrobatic flying. Bicycling is not on the list.

NASA has refused to elaborate on Kopra's injuries, citing medical privacy. The accident involved only Kopra's bicycle, said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield, and occurred in the Houston area.

In a statement, chief astronaut Peggy Whitson said Kopra expects a full recovery, but will not be ready to rocket into orbit by Feb. 24. If the mission is delayed significantly, it's possible he will be able to rejoin the crew, she noted. Kopra, 47, a retired Army colonel, spent two months on the space station in 2009.

Discovery originally was supposed to lift off at the beginning of November. The shuttle holds a load of supplies and spare parts for the space station, as well as the first humanoid robot bound for orbit.

Bowen, 46, a Navy captain, has flown twice in space and performed five spacewalks.

"That extensive experience, coupled with some adjustments to the spread of duties among the crew, will allow for all mission objectives to be accomplished as originally planned," Whitson said.

Bowen begins training this week with the five other members.

NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet this year. Only two - possibly three - missions remain.

Explore further: NASA: Astronaut hurt in bicycle accident

More information: NASA:


Related Stories

NASA names backup for Giffords' husband on shuttle

January 13, 2011

(AP) -- NASA announced Thursday a backup commander, if necessary, to take the place of the astronaut-husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a mass slaying and recovering in a Tucson, Ariz., hospital.

NASA Amends Crew Assignment for STS-126 Mission

November 21, 2007

NASA has replaced a crew member assigned to space shuttle mission STS-126. Astronaut Donald R. Pettit will take the place of astronaut Joan E. Higginbotham, who has left NASA to accept a position in the private sector. The ...

NASA postpones Discovery launch to mid-December

November 24, 2010

NASA on Wednesday postponed until mid-December the launch of the space shuttle Discovery on its last trip to the International Space Station after cracks were found in its external fuel tank.

Recommended for you

Video: A colorful 'landing' on Pluto

January 20, 2017

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip ...

Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome

January 20, 2017

Crammed into a dome with one bathroom, six scientists will spend eight months munching on mostly freeze-dried foods—with a rare treat of Spam—and have only their small sleeping quarters to retreat to for solace.

The evolution of massive galaxy clusters

January 20, 2017

Galaxy clusters have long been recognized as important laboratories for the study of galaxy formation and evolution. The advent of the new generation of millimeter and submillimeter wave survey telescopes, like the South ...

Image: Wavemaker moon Daphnis

January 20, 2017

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view, taken as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn's rings on Jan. 16, 2017. This is the closest view of the small ...

Astronomers search for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet

January 19, 2017

Is there anybody out there? The question of whether Earthlings are alone in the universe has puzzled everyone from biologists and physicists to philosophers and filmmakers. It's also the driving force behind San Francisco ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.