Space Shuttle Discovery Launches on Final Voyage

Thursday, 24 Feb 2011 05:00 PM

 

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Discovery has blasted off on its final voyage shortly before 5 p.m..

Six astronauts are on board the world's most traveled spaceship. They're headed for the international space station after a four-month delay for fuel tank repairs.

This is Discovery's 39th and final mission. It's the first of the three space shuttles to be retired this year.

No other spacecraft has been launched more times.

Tens of thousands witnessed history in the making from the Florida launch site. Countless more watched from surrounding towns. Roads leading into Kennedy Space Center were jammed.

Discovery should reach the space station Saturday. It will deliver a compartment full of supplies as well as the first humanoid robot to fly in space.

The six astronauts for the space station delivery mission headed to the launch pad in early afternoon, waving and smiling to the massive picture-taking crowd at crew quarters. Once at the pad, they paused at the base of the pad to gaze up at Discovery and embraced in a group hug, before getting on board.

The crew hadn't made it this far before; November's launch attempt ended midway through fueling. This time, no hydrogen gas seeped out during fueling.Discovery will head to the international space station with the crew, as well as a load of supplies and a humanoid robot.

This is the 39th flight for Discovery, set to become the first of the three surviving space shuttles to be retired this year and sent to a museum. It has since logged 143 million miles since its first flight in 1984.

Atlantis is set to soar in April and Endeavour at the end of June.

An estimated 40,000 guests gathered for Discovery's farewell launch.


© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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