NASA announced that Discovery, the space shuttle which was supposed to launch in November 2010, will take off on the 24th of February for its final 11-day mission to the ISS (International Space Station). NASA noted that a few modifications and repairs to the shuttle were made including the reparation of the hydrogen vent system. So far, NASA sees no major problem that will affect the schedule; not even the weather which is to be a another sunny day in Florida.
The old shuttle (first launched in the year 1984) will be the first of the three shuttles scheduled to fly on their final missions in 2011 as this shuttle program comes to a close. The other two shuttles are Endeavour & Atlantis, the former will have Mark Kelly, the husband of tragically wounded U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in its crew.
Discovery will be manned by a six-member crew that includes Steve Bowen, Alvin Drew, Eric Boe, Nicole Stott and Michael Barratt; all led by Commander Steve Lindsey.
Discovery will be delivering parts needed in the International Space Station. The space shuttle will also be delivering Robonaut 2 which is encased in the SLEEPR (Structural Launch Enclosure to Effectively-Protect Robonaut). Robonaut 2 is an advanced humanoid robot designed to perform complex tasks and “handle a wide range of EVA tools and interfaces in space.”
Besides the much publicized Robonaut 2 that is to become the ISS crew’s new “toy”, Discovery will also be delivering the PMM (pressurized multipurpose module).
NASA expects a large audience to watch the launching of the space shuttle Discovery and has set up a live-feed on its website for those who would want to view it in live-time.
(Cover Photo: AFP: Pierre Ducharme)