NASA successfully launched the space shuttle Discovery into orbit for its final flight.
Everything went as planned for NASA as it launched the Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. at approximately 4:53 pm eastern for its 39th and final mission. As of 5:02 pm Eastern, NASA said the astronauts were safely in orbit.
Discovery making one last reach for the stars, the NASA TV announcer said as the shuttle lifted off into space.
The mission's crew, headed by Commander Steve Lindsey, will be delivering the permanent multipurpose module (PMM) and other specialized equipment to the International Space Station. The crew members will also carry and install critical components, make two space walks and bring a robot humanoid to space for the first time. It will spend 11 days in space.
Discovery's final launch marks the beginning of the end of an era for space travel: the space shuttle. NASA launched its first shuttle craft in 1981 and has sent up 133 missions to date. The Discovery is the first of the last three shuttle crafts to finish up, the Atlantis and Endeavour will follow suit this year.
We're wrapping up the Space Shuttle Program. Besides the excitement of completing the International Space Station and all the things we do, I hope people get a sense of the history of what the shuttle is and what we've done and what's ending. Because they'll probably never see anything like it flying again, Lindsey said in a statement.
Assembly for the Discovery Shuttle finished in 1983 and the next year it flew into space for the first time. Since its creation, it has flown to space more than any other craft. Before this final mission, it has had 186 astronauts fly aboard, taken 39 trips to space and spent 352 days and counting in orbit, almost a full year. To date, it has taken more than 5,600 trips around the Earth.
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