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Space Shuttle Discovery Lifts Off On Final Mission

Commander Steve Lindsey, right, waves as he and the crew of space shuttle Discovery prepare to board the shuttle at pad 39A Thursday.
Wilfredo Lee
/
AP
Commander Steve Lindsey, right, waves as he and the crew of space shuttle Discovery prepare to board the shuttle at pad 39A Thursday.

Space shuttle Discovery has blasted off on its final voyage, taking six astronauts on their way to orbit.

Discovery will spend 11 days in orbit, and will dock with the International Space Station. The shuttle's launch had been delayed for four months, so that NASA could make fuel tank repairs.

As the AP reports, Discovery has secured a place in history:

Its list of achievements include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, carrying the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spaceship, returning Mercury astronaut John Glenn to orbit, and bringing shuttle flights back to life after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

And on its current mission, the shuttle is taking a "dexterous humanoid robot" into space, named Robonaut 2. In a detail that could be interpreted in several ways, the AP story notes that the robonaut "will remain boxed until after Discovery departs."

If you'd like to follow the shuttle's mission, NASA has a link for that.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.