Feeds

Shuttle Discovery set for final liftoff tomorrow at 7:52pm

Veteran ship lifted Hubble, 246 people in 26-year career

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Space Shuttle Discovery, which had originally been meant to lift off yesterday, will now depart on its final flight tomorrow following last-minute repairs.

Sign counting down to the final launch of Shuttle Discovery. Credit: NASA

Last chance to see

Space Transportation System mission 133 (STS-133, the official NASA name for Discovery's last flight) will now blast off from Cape Canaveral at 3:52pm tomorrow local time - 7:52pm UK time - following last-minute repairs to helium leaks in its steering system. NASA says that its forecasts suggest a 70 per cent chance of suitable weather for launch.

Discovery, veteran of no fewer than 38 previous space flights, is the most-flown of the shuttles and holds many records. The spaceplane has carried more people - 246 - into space than any other vehicle: including the first female to ever pilot a spacecraft, the oldest person to fly in space, the first African-American to perform a spacewalk, the first cosmonaut to fly on an American spacecraft and the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space (Utah senator Jake Garn in 1985).

The shuttle was also the first spacecraft to retrieve a satellite and bring it back to Earth. It was Discovery, too, which originally took the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit. Since its first launch in 1984, the veteran craft has logged almost a year in space and has flown almost three times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Tomorrow's final mission will see the NASA workhorse lift six people and 10 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). That cargo will include the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) "Leonardo" - a pressurised space pod previously mounted in Shuttle cargo bays for ISS missions, which has now been modified for permanent attachment to the Station's Unity node.

Discovery has also been loaded with many other items, including experiments and supplies for the station. Among these will be water and waste-water tanks for the famously troublesome ISS urine and sweat-processing systems and waste-water recyclers - and NASA's well-known humanoid "Robonaut 2" or "R2" robot, intended for various repair and maintenance tasks at the station.

The shuttle will also be carrying 16 mice in individual, automated life support podules. It's hoped that the bizarre effects of extraterrestrial life - microgravity etc - may cause these mice to develop a terrifying form of space plague which could potentially wipe out the entire human race, with many scientific and medical benefits expected.

The whole caboodle - plague mice, Robonaut, golden barrels, living module, orbiter, fuel tanks, boosters and all - is now sitting on Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral. Providing the meteorologists are right, they'll all begin their journey into history tomorrow. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.