Space Shuttle Discovery Set For Final Launch - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Space Shuttle Discovery Set For Final Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - After 143 million miles and nearly a year all told in orbit, space shuttle Discovery is poised to blast off Thursday one last time.

It promises to be a sentimental journey for the six astronauts assigned to the mission as well as the supporting cast of thousands who have painstakingly prepped the world's most traveled rocketship.

Once more, NASA's fleet leader is paving a new road, one that leads to shuttle retirement and an uncertain future for America's space program.

When Discovery returns from the International Space Station, it will be the first of the three surviving shuttles to be decommissioned this year and shipped off to a museum. The Smithsonian Institution has first dibs on this one.

But the end of the 30-year shuttle program is still months down the road. For now, NASA prefers to focus on Discovery's last hurrah, an 11-day mission to deliver a bundle of space station supplies and an experimental humanoid robot that will become the first of its kind in space.

"Discovery is the most flown spacecraft in history," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told The Associated Press. "People don't understand. They say it matter-of-factly. There is no other multi-flown spacecraft than the shuttle."

It's been an uncharacteristically bumpy exit for Discovery.

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