STS-133 Launches on Historic Final Mission for Shuttle Discovery

Discovery launches for one final mission. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Overcoming a down-to the-last second problem, space shuttle Discovery made history today, launching on its final mission to orbit. The most-traveled orbiter is carrying a crew of six astronauts and one human-like Robonaut, along with a new permanent storeroom and supplies for the International Space Station. After waiting nearly four months following the detection of potentially dangerous cracks in Discovery’s external tank and a leak in the Orbiter Maneuvering System pod, a problem with a computer for the Air Force Range Safety Officer nearly thwarted the long-anticipated launch. The crew of STS-133 finally launched on their historic mission, with reinforced ribs, or stringers, in the tank’s “intertank” section and a leak-free OMS – and two seconds before the launch window would have closed – a working computer in the Range. “That was about as last second as you can get,” said Allard Beutel from Kennedy Space Center.

Discovery set off on her final journey from a picture-perfect warm February day at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, thrilling enormous crowds of onlookers, a huge international press corp and dedicated Tweet-up attendees. (…) Read the rest of STS-133 Launches on Historic Final Mission for Shuttle Discovery (242 words)

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