The space shuttle launch of Discovery is nothing new today. In fact, the space shuttle launch is the 39’th time that Discovery has taken off, over three decades of work. This mission had been delayed a few months, however, as this was supposed to happen in November. But thanks to repairs for the external tank’s support beams, the mission was grounded until today. However, today’s space shuttle launch finally brings the last farewell for Discovery under way.
At 4:30 pm est in Cape Canaveral, Discovery is set to take off at last. For the next 11 days, the crew will be at the international space station, delivering tools like a storage module, science rig and spare parts. But when they return, their vessel will be grounded forever.
This afternoon’s space shuttle launch is the last for Discovery, despite its decades of service. It has spent nearly a full calendar year in orbit, as the total will go up to 363 days after this mission. 246 crew members have traveled in it, as it has circled the Earth over 5,600 times.
Yet manned missions to the stars are coming to an end, as NASA is shutting down this part of their program. After this assignment ends, the Endeavour will take off for the last time on April 19. Following that, the last manned shuttle mission ever is set for summer, when Atlantis heads off at an unannounced date.
As such, the space shuttle launch doesn’t just serve as a last farewell to Discovery, but as the beginning of the end for the manned shuttle program. Perhaps the program will be revived at a later date, and more people will want to go into the stars. But if that comes, it will have to happen with new vehicles.
Perhaps it’s fitting that it took so long to set up Discovery’s final flight. But now that there is clear weather, and that all necessary repairs have been made, the fates can’t hold back the inevitable now. The glory days of NASA in the 60’s and 70’s have now given way to indifference, except for these final travels.
This final space shuttle launch for Discovery will have a crew of six, led by retired Air Force colonel Steve Lindsey. It also includes pilot Eric Boe, mission specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen and Michael Barratt, and medical doctor Nicole Stott.
These men and women are making history, as the members of Discovery’s last space shuttle launch. But despite the finality, the best way for the shuttle to go out is to come back safely with everyone, as it has done 38 times already. It’s last takeoff is set to start at 4:50 pm est on Cape Canaveral.
KDVR- “Space Shuttle Discovery Set For Last Launch”
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Orlando Sentinel- “Space shuttle Discovery awaits final launch”