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Discovery is seen shortly after the Rotating Service Structure was rolled back at launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Ingalls / NASA/European Pressphoto Agency

Fuel is loaded into Discovery as it sits on the launchpad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Raoux / Associated Press

Emery Grimm, 7, Mallory, 4, and their mother, Margaret, of Lexington, Ky., find refuge in their tent at Space View Park in Titusville, Fla., as they wait to witness the final flight of Discovery.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

Danny and Billie Holmes of Newnan, Ga., watch from Space View Park in Titusville, Fla.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

NASA astronauts Nicole Stott, Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt, pilot Eric Boe, Steve Bowen and commander Steve Lindsey head toward the launchpad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Justin Dernier / European Pressphoto Agency

Crew members of the STS-133 space shuttle Discovery gather on the launchpad before boarding the orbiter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Shuttle commander Steve Lindsey is helped by members of the white room crew as he prepares to board Discovery.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Crew member Nicole Stott prepares for her Discovery spaceflight.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Mission specialist Michael Barratt shakes the hand of a white room crew member atop the launch gantry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, blasts off Thursday from Kennedy Space Center on its final flight.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

People cheer as Discovery lifts off for the last time from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on its 39th and last mission into space. First flown in 1984, Discovery will retire after this journey to the International Space Station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Stefano Paltera / For the Los Angeles Times

Discovery climbs toward outer space.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

The underbelly of the space shuttle Discovery is seen during launch from a camera mounted aboard the orbiter's external fuel tank.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Discovery climbs into the sky off the Florida coast.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Reuters

A long-range tracking camera shows a close-up view of Discovery en route to space with its three main engines and two solid rocket boosters firing in this still image taken from video.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Discovery, below, continues to orbit as the solid rocket boosters separate from the spacecraft after it lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Pierre Ducharme / Reuters

Spectators watch Discovery begin its voyage to the International Space Station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Audette / Reuters

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Space shuttle Discovery's final voyage

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Space shuttle Discovery’s final voyage

Space shuttle Discovery blasted off under clear blue skies on Thursday afternoon on its final mission to the International Space Station before it is retired next month. The 27-year-old orbiter, with a crew of six astronauts, thundered from the launchpad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 4:53 p.m. as tens of thousands of spectators cheered NASA’s oldest and most-traveled shuttle.

It was the 39th liftoff for Discovery, commanded by space veteran Steve Lindsey, a retired Air Force colonel, on an 11-day mission ferrying supplies and a humanoid robot to the space station.

The launch marks the beginning of the end of the U.S. space shuttle program, 30 years after NASA began launching the reusable, workhorse spaceships into orbit. Two more shuttles await their final launches: Endeavour in April and Atlantis as early as June.

2 Comments

  1. February 25, 2011, 7:43 am

    The finest the best ever ! More Power to you !

    Thank you very much

    Charles A. Balint Hungary the Garden State of EU

    By: KAROLYkaroly5
  2. March 7, 2011, 7:33 am

    I worked at Johnson Space Center in 1986 when we lost Challenger and in 1988 I created the first original music used on an American space flight. My song parodies of "Green Acres" and two Beach Boys songs used as wake up calls on Discovery's STS-26 mission represented an enthusiasm for our nation's manned space program that still has not waned. I am teary-eyed at the prospect of bidding farewell to the shuttle system. But I am also encouraged that, given the broad range of benefits derived from our continued exploration, we will replace the Shuttle with a more efficient and much improved launch system. Columbus did not stay at home. Neither should we.

    By: 35mmGuy

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