Space Shuttle Discovery launches on its final flight today

Discovery on the launch pad earlier this month

At 21.50 UK time today the Space shuttle Discovery, the furthest travelled manned space craft in history, takes off for its final flight before retirement.  Discovery was also the shuttle that launched the Hubble telescope in 1990

The crew of STS 133 and Robonaut 2

First flown in August 1984, Discovery is the oldest of the three remaining shuttles with construction work on it starting in 1979. This will be its 39th mission, STS 133, and is also noteworthy in that it will carry the first humanoid robot (Robonaut 2) into space.  Robonaut 2 is designed to test robotic functions in zero gravity but ultimately could be used for genuine work alongside astronauts on the International Space Station. It's purpose is to be a much more dexterous machine than the main robotic arm which is really designed for manipulating large objects. It's pure science fiction!

An illustration of how Robonaut 2 would be connected to the ISS robot arm. It's like a Chesley Bonestell illustration from sixty years ago!

Discovery will replace the Enterprise at the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum at Dulles airport in Washington.  This is because, of course, whilst Enterprise was the first shuttle it was never designed to go into space and was only used in atmospheric flight testing.  Discovery will be an actual space veteran of 142 million miles and 351 days in space

Triple P offers the crew best wishes for their historic flight!
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