Discovery Rolls to Launch Pad

Filed under: Florida News,Vacation Tips |

The US shuttle Discovery rolled out for what should be its final mission last night. The orbiter, bathed in bright xenon light, completed its slow 3.4 mile journey to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A overnight.

Discovery’s flight to the International Space Station is scheduled to begin on 24 February all being well. The shuttle will deliver a storeroom to be attached to the 217 mile-high space station platform, along with further supplies and spares.

Stacked with its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters, Discovery took seven hours to complete the roll from Kennedy’s vast Vehicle Assembly Building to complex 39A and many Kennedy employees, along with their families, came to witness the event.

Back in November, NASA tried to launch Discovery but technical hitches, including cracks on its giant external fuel tank, kept the ship on the ground. The agency said engineers had now fixed those defects and carried out further work to strengthen the tank.

Discovery is the oldest of the three surviving orbiters. First launched in 1984, it has since completed 38 missions, traveling some 143 million miles in the process.

Endeavour is expected to fly to the station in April. Atlantis will go no earlier than June, if NASA has sufficient money left in its shuttle program budget.

President Barack Obama and the US Congress have determined that the shuttle fleet should be retired this year and following the fleet’s retirement, the plan is for US astronauts to fly to the space station on Russian Soyuz rockets until perhaps the middle of the decade.

Discovery is targeting a 1650 EST launch on 24 February. Let’s hope it goes well.

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