Feeds

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

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

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.