CAPE CANAVERAL – Arriving in their trademark T-38 Talon jets, the crew that will fly the last mission of the space shuttle Discovery arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at 3:45 p.m. EDT and took a few moments to speak to members of the media and pose for pictures before heading off to prepare for their 11-day mission.
Discovery is currently slated to begin its mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with liftoff taking place at 4:50 p.m. EDT Thursday, Feb. 24. The STS-133 mission is Discovery’s final scheduled flight. However, STS-132, which took place this past May, was shuttle Atlantis’ final scheduled flight – now that orbiter is scheduled to close out the shuttle program when it completes mission STS-135, which is scheduled to take place late this summer.
The crew will deliver the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the space station. The PMM was modified from the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Leonardo – which was essentially a cargo container. Now, Leonardo will be a permanent fixture on the orbiting outpost providing additional storage for the station’s crew.
On the way to orbit, the PMM will carry, among other things, the first human-like robot ever flown in space, Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 will stay onboard the station and will be used to test the viability of similar robots in assisting astronauts on future long-duration missions. One of the things that the station can always use – is more spare parts. STS-133 will deliver various parts and the Express Logistics Carrier 4, a platform that holds large equipment.
The crew consists of Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Bowen is a last minute addition to the crew. He replaces Tim Kopra who broke his hip in a bicycle accident.