The payload for the next shuttle mission, STS-133 was on full display at Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, including the mission’s “7th” crew member – Robonaut (or R2 as he is known to his friends). A media event on Aug. 12 showcased elements that Discovery is scheduled to lift to orbit on Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
Without a doubt the star of the show was R2 himself. The mostly-white android looked every bit the science-fiction meets science-fact as the imagery we have all seen on television and the internet have made him out to be. Robonaut 2 had originally been designed to only be a technology demonstrator, but engineers wanted to see how the system would operate in space and he was given a seat on the flight (albeit way in the back).
R2 was not the only horse at this rodeo however; NASA also had other flight hardware elements on display that will roar into orbit this fall. One of these was the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) that will be transported to the space station in Discovery’s payload bay (with R2 nestled inside). The PMM is in actuality the modified Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM) and when the mission is completed the PMM will be left attached to the station.
Space Shuttle Discovery will carry Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) DragonEye (DE) relative navigation sensor on this mission. It is expected that this sensor will be installed about half a month later than originally planned due to a failure in the laser rod that was detected during testing. This item however was not on display at this event.
STS-133 could possibly be Discovery’s final flight (it has been mentioned that if there is an STS-135 – that Discovery might fly that mission). It will mark the 35th time that one of NASA’s orbiters has traveled to the orbiting laboratory. The crew consists of Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott.
More images of R2 and Leonardo: