This afternoon marks a historic moment for NASA’s space shuttle Discovery. Today will be the 39th and final time it will launch from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. After nearly three decades of active service, STS-133 is scheduled for its final launch at 4:50 PM EST. The launch was originally scheduled for last November, however mechanical problems with the external tank support beams caused it to be delayed till today.
You can watch the launch coverage on NASA TV on the web or on your local cable provider.
The Discovery crew will be delivering the Permanent Multipurpose Module(PMM). The PMM is designed to hold additional storage for the International Space Station crew as well as provide a location for experimentation in fluid physics, material science, biology and biotechnology. Discovery will also carry critical spare parts for the ISS and the Express Logistics Carrier (ELC4). The ELC4 is an external platform which can hold large equipment that can only be transported with the large capacity of the space shuttle.
In addition to two planned spacewalks, STS-133 will also mark introduction of Robonaut 2 (R2), the first human-like robot to space, where it will become a permanent resident.
STS-133 will be a six member crew:
- Steve Lindsay – Commander
- Eric Boe – Pilot
- Alvin Drew – Mission Specialist
- Steve Bowen – Mission Specialist (replaced Tim Kopras last month after a bicycling accident)
- Michael Barratt – Mission Specialist
- Nicole Scott – Mission Specialist
Discovery’s retirement is well earned.
Discovery has flown more missions then any other spacecraft, flying 38 missions to date. It has carried 246 crew members and completed 5,628 orbits around the Earth equaling 352 days.
As a workhorse, Discovery has carried many satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and sent the Ulysses robotic probe on its way to the Sun. As an ambassador, Discovery was the first shuttle to dock with the Russian Mir Space Station and delivered the Kibo laboratory to the ISS. After retirement, NASA has offered Discovery for display at the National Air and Space Museum.
Last October, before the launch was delayed, GeekMom paid tribute to Discovery’s final flight with a playlist of music befitting the occasion.