30 years of space travel, NASA's space
shuttle Discovery will make its final flight today from Cape Canaveral,
was first launched in 1984, and is one of NASA’s three operational orbiters in
the Space Shuttle fleet. It has spent 352 days in orbit and circled the Earth
5,628 times. It has also carried 246 crewmembers, which is more than any other
space vehicle has before. After years of International Space Station assembly
missions and research missions, Discovery is now the oldest orbiter in service,
and will be retiring after today's launch.
Today's launch, which will be Discovery's 39th
journey, was originally set for November 5 of last year, but the launch was
delayed due to vital repairs to the external tank's support beams. NASA
released the new launch date, February 24, just a few weeks ago.
has been a really remarkable vehicle for us and the program," said Jeff
Spaulding, NASA test director. "She still has a few more miles to go
before she sleeps, though."
final flight will carry a six-member crew for an 11-day mission. The mission
objective is to deliver a science rig, a storage module, and spare parts to the
international Space Station. In addition, Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot assistant, will be
traveling on the Discovery to embark on a permanent stay at the International
crew members aboard the Discovery's final flight will be commander and veteran NASA
astronaut Steven Lindsey, NASA pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Alvin
Drew, Michael Barratt, Steven Bowen and Nicole Stott. Originally, astronaut Tim
Kopra was supposed to be apart of the six-member crew, but endured a bicycle
accident last month that has prevented him from joining the others. Bowen was a
last-minute substitute for Kopra.
a.m. EST (1225 GMT), NASA technicians began filling the Discovery's 15-story,
550,000 gallon tank, which is a three-hour process that consists of pumping
liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the tank. The launch is set to take
place at 4:50 p.m. EST (2150 GMT).
are really looking forward to a very action-packed, successful mission,"
said Mike Moses, NASA's shuttle integration manager.
addition to the Discovery's final launch, space shuttle Endeavour, which is
also one of the three operational orbiters at NASA, is set to embark on its
final launch as well on April 19.