Print 29 comment(s) - last by The Raven.. on Feb 28 at 3:08 PM

Space Shuttle Discovery
The six-member crew will deliver materials to the International Space Station aboard the Discovery for the last time today at 4:50 p.m. EST

After nearly 30 years of space travel, NASA's space shuttle Discovery will make its final flight today from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  

Discovery 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.  

"Discovery 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."

Discovery's 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 Space Station.  

The six 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. 

At 7:25 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). 

"We are really looking forward to a very action-packed, successful mission," said Mike Moses, NASA's shuttle integration manager.

In 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. 

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: The end of an Era
By maven81 on 2/24/2011 1:38:41 PM , Rating: 2
Even as a massive NASA supporter I have to say that as far as making it possible for the average joe to get off this rock, they are not doing well. The shuttle fleet is the most expensive way for humans to reach LEO. With prices like those you and I would never wind up going. And that's if they even sold tickets. They still don't, and for that you have to go to the Russians. Space X is poised to beat them handily when it comes to making cheap, routine flights possible. Let's hope they realize this and focus on pushing the envelope, and eventually getting us out beyond the moon.

RE: The end of an Era
By Solandri on 2/24/2011 2:32:21 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, for a long time NASA has been divided into the "man in space" group and the "robots for exploration" group. It used to be the manned space program got the bulk of NASA funding. I always thought that was a travesty, and that so much money was spent putting people into orbit to do relatively trivial things when the same amount of money could pay for so much more robotic exploration. For comparison, the entire MER program (the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars) cost about the same as a single Shuttle mission.

So I've been hoping the shuttles would be retired sooner rather than later. But even I'm crestfallen that we're replacing them with... nothing. I was hoping the manned space program would be scaled back in favor of robots. Not eliminated entirely.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki