The Space Shuttle Discovery, the flag-ship of NASA’s Orbiter fleet, was today launched on its final mission into space, drawing another glorious chapter of manned spaceflight closer to a close.
Discovery was first launched in 1984, and this will be its 39th outing – more missions than any other vessel in the fleet. When it lands back on Earth in nearly two weeks’ time it will have covered a massive total career distance of 230 million km – which is further than the distance from the Earth to the Sun (149 million km)!
During this last mission Discovery will be visiting the International Space Station, where it will be delivering a new storage module and, more excitingly, NASA’s first humanoid service robot, Robonaut R-2, designed to assist the Space Station crew with their duties and which NASA hopes will be the first in a generation of android assistants, rather like Star Wars R2-D2!
Only two more Shuttle flights remain to be launched this year, involving Discovery’s sister ships Atlantis and Endeavour, before the fleet is retired for good after 40 years of invaluable scientific service.
You can follow the entire progress of the mission via NASA’s website here.
The Library has access to a wide variety of information on the subjects of space exploration in our Aeronautical Engineering section on Metalib, including access to NASA’s own Technical Information database. And you want to find out more about the economical ramifications of the space programme, you can find a wealth of information through databases such as Business Source Complete. But if you’re interested simply in the history of manned space flight, why not dip into the newspaper archives on Nexis UK, where you can read all about it?