Discovery Heads To The Pad

Space Shuttle Discovery made its way to launch pad 39A early this morning as preparations continued for the STS-131 mission, which will be the penultimate mission for the orbiter. Essentially a resupply mission, Discovery will haul a multi-purpose logistics module to the International Space Station filled with science racks and station supplies. With the ISS now 98% complete and permanently manned with a six-person crew, the demand for science has finally overtaken the need for station keeping. It has been an incredible journey that I have followed closely since the beginning, and with the end of the Shuttle era approaching we have an extremely impressive space station in orbit that we as a planet can be proud of. Sure there are political opponents and questions about its validity and cost, but to achieve such an amazing feat of engineering is indeed worthy of praise.

Discovery arrives at launch pad 39A

As the April 5th launch date approaches it will mark the final days of the Space Shuttles as there will be only one remaining launch for each of the active orbiters, Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis. Three launches remaining for three orbiters. The fleet has helped build the ISS, which has now ironically been granted an extension to its active orbital life, gracing our skies until at least the year 2020. Access to space will become the domain of other countries and private companies, like SpaceX, that successfully conducted an engine test at the cape this week. With the final missions the Shuttle fleet has its work cut out to loft as much cargo as they can to the station to ensure it is not only fully outfitted, but stocked with spare parts and supplies.

Spacers will be keeping a close eye on the final Shuttle missions, so catch a launch while you can.

Images credit: NASA
Digg this