Clara Moskowitz, Space.com (January 28, 2011)
"The space shuttle Discovery is set to make its last journey to Launch Pad 39A Monday (Jan. 31) in preparation for its final mission to space next month.
"Discovery is slated to launch Feb. 24, carrying six astronauts and a load of new tools and spare supplies to the International Space Station.
"The shuttle has been inside the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., since late December. It has been undergoing repairs for cracks on its giant external fuel tank that were discovered while NASA was preparing to try to launch the shuttle in November. The cracks were found on support beams, called stringers, on the tank...."
The original schedule for Discovery's last mission included a launch date of November 1, 2010. Quite a bit has happened since then: including the repairs mentioned in the first few paragraphs of this Space.com article.
Two more shuttle launches are planned - and then the Space Shuttle fleet will be retired. Other nations will handle cargo and passenger runs to the International Space Station after that.
The Lemming thinks it won't be long before private spacecraft start making deliveries to low Earth orbit, too - and that's another topic.
- "Discovery Launch: Hydrogen Leak, Cracks, and Canvas Sails"
(November 24, 2010)
- "Last Space Shuttle Discovery Launch This Afternoon: Maybe"
(November 5, 2010)
- "Last Discovery Launch Called On Account of Rain"
(November 4, 2010)
- "Space Shuttle Discovery: Last Launch, First Robot"
(October 29, 2010)
- "Last Flights of the First Space Freighters, New Construction at Spaceports"
(September 23, 2010)