Discovery prepares for last spaceflight

Space shuttle Discovery is now at the launch pad in preparation for its final flight.

It was moved out of the hangar last night for the three-and-a-half mile trip from Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. The journey took several hours, with the shuttle moving at just one mile per hour.‬‪

Discovery’s STS-133 mission was postponed from an original target of this week to November 1st. The last shuttle mission ever will take place in February when Endeavour also leaves for the ISS, carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which will be used to search for anti-matter.

There’s a possibility of one more flight after that – probably using the Atlantis shuttle, next summer – but the funding for this hasn’t yet been agreed.

During the flight, the STS-133 crew members will take important spare parts to the International Space Station along with the Express Logistics Carrier-4. The new module will add extra storage space. It will also carry the Robonaut-2 robot, which will work in the ISS’s laboratory.

The roll-out was watched by several hundred staff and their families, many of whom are contractors who will lose their jobs next month as the 30-year shuttle program comes to an end.

Discovery has made 38 previous flights, completing 5,247 orbits and spending a total of nearly a year in orbit.