Posted By RichC on February 25, 2011
NASA’s space shuttle Discovery rocketed on its final voyage about 3 minutes late due to a computer problem yesterday afternoon. Mission STS-133 (PDF Summary) is sending six astronauts into space to dock with the International Space Station and plans to spend 11 days orbiting the earth. This launch has been delayed for four months in order to repair to a fuel tank.
STS-133’s lift-off was the 39th launch of the most traveled of the three remaining shuttles and the 133rd shuttle mission overall. Discovery plans to dock on Saturday and deliver supplies and an experimental humanoid robot dubbed Robonaut 2 or R2.
According to reports, the on-board TV cameras showed some pieces of foam insulation breaking off the external fuel tank four minutes into the flight, but most analyzing the images say that it shouldn’t pose any safety concerns because it was late enough after liftoff.
Discovery’s list of achievements include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, carrying the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spaceship, performing the first rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir with the first female shuttle pilot in the cockpit, returning Mercury astronaut John Glenn to orbit, and bringing shuttle flights back to life after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.
Discovery is expected to be eventually put on display by the Smithsonian Institution.