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A historic last launch for groundbreaking Discovery

by Staff Writers
Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) Feb 23, 2011
NASA's most heavily traveled spacecraft, the shuttle Discovery, is to launch Thursday on its final mission after a storied, 27-year career that has broken ground in many ways.

Here are some facts about the shuttle and some of its most memorable moments.

- First mission, STS-41D, was on August 30, 1984.

- Has completed 38 missions, and logged more than 5,600 trips around Earth.

- Traveled a total of 142,917,535 miles (230,003,477 kilometers) so far, will add 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers) on this final trip.

- Spent 352 days in space until now, for a total of 363 days by the end of this mission.

- Carried the Hubble space telescope into orbit in April, 1990.

- Has twice been the first shuttle to return to orbit after a major disaster: in 1988 after Challenger exploded in 1986; and again in 2005 after Columbia disintegrated in 2003.

- Is the oldest shuttle in the three-member fleet, due to the demise of Columbia and Challenger which were older.

- Was the first shuttle to be piloted by a woman, Eileen Collins in 1995.

- First shuttle to be commanded by a woman, also Eileen Collins in 1999.

- Carried the first African-American astronaut spacewalker, Bernard Harris in 1995.

- Transported first sitting member of Congress in space, Senator Jake Garn in 1985.

- Delivered part of Japan's Kibo laboratory to the ISS in 2008.

- Was the first shuttle to rendez-vous with the Russian Mir Space Station 1995.

- Has received 99 upgrades.

- By the end of this mission, will have transported 180 people in total.

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NASA green lights Discovery launch for Thursday
Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) Feb 23, 2011
NASA gave the green light for the space shuttle Discovery to blast off Thursday, saying the countdown to the aging shuttle's final mission before retirement was going "beautifully." Technical failures delayed Discovery's launch in November 2010, but sunny weather and smooth preparations gave engineers every indication that the 39th mission for the historic shuttle would proceed on schedule. ... read more

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