Space Shuttle Discovery – Getting ready for its final mission [26 Pics]

Space Shuttle Discovery being moved to launchpad at night

Space Shuttle Discovery being moved to launchpad at night
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Bathed in bright xenon lights, space shuttle Discovery makes its nighttime trek, known as “rollout,” from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will take the shuttle, attached to its external fuel tank, twin solid rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform, about six hours to complete the move atop a crawler-transporter. Rollout sets the stage for Discovery’s STS-133 crew to practice countdown and launch procedures during the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test in mid-October. Targeted to liftoff Nov. 1, Discovery will take the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) packed with supplies and critical spare parts, as well as Robonaut 2 (R2) to the International Space Station. 09/20/2010
Earth Art Photo: NASA/Jim Grossman

Introduction

STS-133: Final Flight of Discovery
Workhorse, ambassador, scientist and equal opportunity emissary. Space shuttle Discovery has fulfilled all those roles over the course of its 352 days in space, thus far.

It’s been the first shuttle to venture into new territory several times, and it’s about to do so again: Following the STS-133 mission, Discovery will be the first of the shuttle fleet to retire.
Still, if that doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps what it carries inside will: In addition to a host of new science experiments and hardware, there’s Robonaut 2, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space. Although its first priority will be to test its operation in microgravity, upgrades could eventually allow it to fulfill its ultimate purpose of becoming an astronaut helper on boring or dangerous tasks. [26 Pics]
At present time NASA has set the Launch of space shuttle Discovery to Thursday February 24th, 4:50 p.m. EST.

Hint: Use “J” and “K” keys to navigate from picture to picture.

STS-133 Badge

STS-133 Badge
The STS-133 mission patch is based upon sketches from the late artist Robert McCall; they were the final creations of his long and prodigious career. In the foreground, a solitary orbiter ascends into a dark blue sky above a roiling fiery plume. A spray of stars surrounds the orbiter and a top lit crescent forms the background behind the ascent. The mission number, STS-133, is emblazoned on the patch center, and crewmembers’ names are listed on a sky-blue border around the scene. The shuttle Discovery is depicted ascending on a plume of flame as if it is just beginning a mission. However, it is just the orbiter, without boosters or an external tank, as it would be at mission’s end. This is to signify Discovery’s completion of its operational life and the beginning of its new role as a symbol of NASA’s and the nation’s proud legacy in human spaceflight. NASA

Dawn breaks over Space Shuttle Discovery

Dawn breaks over Space Shuttle Discovery
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Dawn breaks over the Atlantic Ocean near Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to reveal space shuttle Discovery newly arrived for its upcoming launch. First motion on its 3.4-mile trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building was at 7:58 p.m. EST Jan. 31, and was secured or “hard down” on the pad a little before 3 a.m. Feb. 1. Discovery’s next launch opportunity to the International Space Station on the STS-133 mission is targeted for Feb. 24.
02/01/2011 NASA/Kim Shiflett

Space Shuttle Discovery back in September 2010

Space Shuttle Discovery back in September 2010
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, shuttle Discovery pauses in between Orbiter Processing Facility-3 and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) during a move called “rollover.” Once inside the VAB, the shuttle will be joined to its solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank.
Image taken by Landsat 7 on 09/09/2010
Earth Art Photo: NASA/Jack Pfaller

External Fuel Tank for Space Shuttle Discovery arrives back in May 2010

External Fuel Tank for Space Shuttle Discovery arrives back in May 2010
The external fuel tank for space shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 mission arrives in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building.
05/10/2010 NASA/Jack Pfaller

Space Shuttle Discovery main engine secured on a Hyster forklift

Space Shuttle Discovery main engine secured on a Hyster forklift
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a space shuttle main engine secured on a Hyster forklift moves from the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility to Orbiter Processing Facility-3. Three main engines, weighing 7,000 pounds each, will be installed in space shuttle Discovery.

6/14/2010NASA/Jack Pfaller

Space Shuttle Discovery begins to back out of Orbiter Processing Facility

Space Shuttle Discovery begins to back out of Orbiter Processing Facility
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, shuttle Discovery begins to back out of Orbiter Processing Facility-3 during a move called “rollover” to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Once inside the VAB, the shuttle will be joined to its solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank.
9/9/2010 NASA/Jack Pfaller

Space Shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building

Space Shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Technicians begin to remove thermal sensors and foam insulation from space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building. The sensors will give engineers data about the changes the tank went through with the loading and draining of super-cold propellants during a tanking test on Dec. 17. Below the bright-orange external tank, is the nose of the shuttle, which still is attached to the tank and two solid rocket boosters.
12/23/2010 NASA/Frank Michaux

Space Shuttle Discovery begins rollout

 

Space Shuttle Discovery begins rollout
Space Shuttle Discovery begins its nighttime trek, known as “rollout,” from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. It will take the shuttle, attached to its external fuel tank, twin solid rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform, about six hours to complete the move atop a crawler-transporter.
09/20/2010 NASA/Frankie Martin

Space Shuttle Discovery and the moon

 

Space Shuttle Discovery and the moon
09/20/2010 NASA/Tony Gray

Space Shuttle Discovery is in the spotlight

 

Space Shuttle Discovery is in the spotlight
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Discovery is in the spotlight as it is being moved atop the crawler-transporter out of the Vehicle Assembly Building on its 3.4-mile trek to Launch Pad 39A.
01/31/2011 NASA/Frank Michaux

Xenon lights illuminate Space Shuttle Discovery

 

Xenon lights illuminate Space Shuttle Discovery
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Xenon lights illuminate space shuttle Discovery as it makes its nighttime trek, known as “rollout,” from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
01/31/2011 NASA/Frank Michaux

NASA Staff and families follow the Rollout

 

NASA Staff and families follow the Rollout
Outside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Kennedy employees, and their families and friends, are on hand to watch space shuttle Discovery roll out to Launch Pad 39A.
01/31/2011 NASA/Jack Pfaller

Discovery's 7 hour rollout

 

Discovery’s 7 hour rollout
It took the shuttle, attached to its external fuel tank, twin solid rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform, about seven hours to complete the move atop a crawler-transporter.
01/31/2011
Earth Art Photo: NASA/Jack Pfaller

Discovery arrives at Launch Pad 39A

 

Discovery arrives at Launch Pad 39A
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Discovery arrives at Launch Pad 39A from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
02/01/2011 NASA/Jack Pfaller

STS-133 Crew Bailout training

 

STS-133 Crew Bailout training
STS-133 crew during CCTII BAILOUT training. Photo Date: March 26, 2010. Location: Building 9NW – CCT II Mockup. Photographer:.
Earth Art Photo: NASA/Robert Markowitz

STS-133 Crew poses for photo

 

STS-133 Crew poses for photo
The STS-133 crew members pose for a group photo on the shuttle landing facility following their arrival aboard T-38 jets. From left, are Mission Specialists Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew, Pilot Eric Boe, and Commander Steve Lindsey. Bowen replaces astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident in January 2011
Earth Art Photo: NASA

Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers

 

INTRODUCING R2
Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is set to launch to the space station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.
Read more about R2: NASA

R2 our final crew for Discovery

 

R2 our final crew for Discovery
R2, as the robot is called, will launch inside the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, which will be packed with supplies and equipment for the station and then installed permanently on the Unity node. Once R2 is unpacked – likely several months after it arrives – it will initially be operated inside the Destiny laboratory for operational testing, but over time both its territory and its applications could expand. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth.
NASA Video about R2

Discovery's External Fuel Tank

 

Discovery’s External Fuel Tank
Technicians outfit space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank with approximately 89 strain gauges, thermocouples and wiring
12/14/2010 NASA/Jim Grossmann

Space Shuttle Discovery on Launch Pad 39A

 

Space Shuttle Discovery on Launch Pad 39A
12/21/2010 NASA/Frank Michaux

Discovery's external tank controversy

Discovery’s external tank controversy
Space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank has taken on a bit of a starring role for the STS-133 mission because of the extra work needed to handle the unexpected challenges presented by the tank’s stringers.
Read more: NASA

Sunrise over Discovery

Sunrise over Discovery
The sun begins it rise in the East overlooking Launch Pad 39A and space shuttle Discovery, newly arrived for its upcoming launch.
02/01/2011: NASA/Jack Pfaller

Discovery Reflections in water

Reflections
Space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank is being filled with more than 535,000 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen
12/17/2010 NASA/Frank Michaux

The beginning of a total lunar eclipse hovers over the top of space shuttle Discovery

The beginning of a total lunar eclipse hovers over the top of space shuttle Discovery
12/21/2010 NASA/Kim Shiflett

Discovery and Lightning light show

Light Show (2009 image)
Rollout of space shuttle Discovery is slow-going due to the onset of lightning in the area of Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
08/04/2009 Justin Dernier/EPA

7 Comments

  1. I still feel like we’re taking a step backwards retiring the Shuttle fleet. I’m glad we have a commercial space program ramping up, but NASA needs to take the lead in innovation. If only our government felt the same way and budgeted more to space exploration.

  2. Incredible photos. RIP Discovery.

    I’m thinking that NASA’s’ next project needs to be preparing to fight advanced space aliens. Not all of these ETs are going to be friendly when we meet them one day. I don’t expect they’ll touch us with their light-up fingers and offer up reese’s pieces.

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