CAPE CANAVERAL — Good weather was in the offing for NASA's planned 5:02 p.m. launch today of space shuttle Discovery, whose seven astronauts are ferrying a $1-billion Japanese space lab that has been more than 20 years in the making to the international space station.
As many as 400 Japanese were expected to be at the launch today in Cape Canaveral. The Japanese lab — named Kibo, which means hope — will be the biggest room at the space station once it's installed. The 37-foot-long scientific workshop is as large as a school bus and weighs more than 32,000 pounds; it fills Discovery's entire payload bay. It has its own hatch to the outside for experiments and a pair of robot arms.
The first part of the lab flew up in March, and the third and final section will be launched next year.
The shuttle will also take up a new pump for the space station's malfunctioning toilet. The pump was flown to Florida from Moscow on Wednesday, a rush job precipitated by last week's toilet breakdown at the space station.
Three space walks are planned during the 14-day flight by Discovery's seven astronauts, one of whom is Japanese. The shuttle commander is Mark Kelly, whose identical twin, Scott, is also a space shuttle skipper.
A glitch on Mars: Scientists for the Phoenix Mars lander are wrestling with an intermittent short circuit on the spacecraft. The problem is in a device that will analyze ice and soil dug from the planet's surface, the scientists said. The short circuit was found during testing before the mission's experiments get under way and isn't considered critical, said William Boyton of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He said scientists know what is triggering the problem and are working on solutions.