NASA's last flight of Discovery

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Oct. 25 2010 2:03 PM

NASA's last flight of Discovery

[UPDATE: Launch has been delayed for a day and is now set for Tuesday, Nov.2 at 16:17 Eastern time.]

Infrared image of the Shuttle launch If you have always wanted to watch a launch of the Shuttle that lofted Hubble into orbit, then you get one final chance: the last scheduled flight of Discovery is now set for November 1. STS-133, as that flight is designated, will thunder into space at 16:40 Eastern time (20:40 UT) from Kennedy Space Center. The six crew members will install a new module on the International Space Station, as well as spare parts, an external platform for experiments, and -- get this -- a human-like robot called Robonaut 2.

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NASA_Robonaut2The robot -- I wonder if they'll call it R2? -- is an experiment to test how such devices can help astronauts in the future*. Pictured on the right (where it can be seen curling a 20 pound dumbbell, ostensibly so it can more efficiently kill Sarah Connor), it'll be mounted on a fixed pedestal in the new module. Eventually, future models will be mobile, allowing them to do work on the station itself, both inside and outside. GM is partnering with NASA on Robonaut, so that the new technologies may be applied in the automotive industry as well.

You can follow Robonaut on Twitter, as well as the feed from (human) astronaut Nicole Stott.

I will unfortunately be out of town for this launch if it happens on time, but if I can, I'll live-tweet the launch as well. It'll be sad to see Discovery going up for what is almost certainly the last time, but I am still hopeful that in a few years, we'll have a much better system for access to space.



* And yes, there will be a future of manned space flight for NASA. Anyone furthering the lie that Obama is killing manned spaceflight will have to answer to me.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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