KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Space workers will hold a special Fourth of July ceremony when they move the shuttle Discovery to the launching pad to be readied for the first space shuttle mission since the Challenger tragedy.
One of the five astronauts scheduled to fly the early September mission and National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials will watch from a grandstand as the spaceship is rolled out of an assembly building into the glare of spotlights at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Discovery will be perched upright on a giant tracked transporter for the six- to seven-hour trip over a 4.2-mile course to Launching Pad 39B.
The move is timed to avoid thunderstorms and lightning, which often occur during the daytime at this time of year.
After Discovery is on the pad, employees and their families will be able to drive by between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday to get a close look before a service structure encloses the spaceship.
In a brief ceremony as the move begins, Forrest S. McCartney, director of the Kennedy Space Center, will present the astronauts with a book containing signatures of the 15,240 workers here who have labored to return the shuttle fleet to space.
Commander Frederick H. Hauck and his crew, Richard O. Covey, George D. Nelson, John M. Lounge and David C. Hilmers, will take the book into space with them on a four-day mission.
It was hoped to have the shuttle on the pad earlier, but James F. Harrington, shuttle operations director, said delays in preparing Discovery placed the rollout date on the Fourth of July.
He said checks of systems will begin as soon as Discovery is on the pad, and workers will begin preparing the spaceship for critical firing of its three main engines on July 24. With the craft bolted firmly to its launching mounts, the engines will be ignited for 19.4 seconds to test modifications and to give the launching team countdown practice.
The shuttle fleet has been grounded since Challenger and its crew of seven were lost in an explosion 73 seconds after liftoff Jan. 28, 1986.
Earlier this week, the space agency announced that it had officially delayed Discovery's launching from late August until early September.