If you’re trying to stay in shape before a space flight, use a stationary bike.
That’s one of the likely lessons learned by astronaut Timothy Kopra, who was to have been the lead space walker aboard the next space shuttle fight currently scheduled for launch around Feb. 24. Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident on Jan. 15. NASA announced Wednesday (Jan. 19) that Kopra will be bumped from the flight, designated STS-133, due to unspecified injuries resulting from the bike crash.
Given the fact that the last flight of the Shuttle Discovery has been delayed several times since November due to a leaking external fuel tank, it’s still possible that a recovered Kopra could fly if the mission is again delayed. For now, Kopra will be replaced by shuttle veteran Steve Bowen, who has performed five space walks. Bowen will have to hustle to master the space walks planned on the next trip to the International Space Station, including the installation of a multipurpose module designed to store large equipment and spare parts.
Kopra must be kicking himself, especially since the shuttle program is winding down, and flight assignments will be as scarce as hens’ teeth. NASA has recently seen a spate of astronaut retirements, undoubtedly prompted by the end of the shuttle program and a looming lack of flight assignments.
As one shuttle commander, George Zamka, told me, he is just looking for another way to get back into space. The line just got a little longer.