Shuttle launch set for Thursday; final NASA countdown begins
After a four-month delay, the world's most traveled rocket ship will set off into the sky for its last trip. The space agency cleared Discovery for takeoff Wednesday morning, announcing it had solved a problem caused by fuel tank cracks.
The trip to the International Space Station will mark what could be the last of three space shuttle launches under NASA. The Endeavor shuttle is set to launch in April, with Mark Kelly as commander, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's husband. The Atlantis is meant to fly in June.
Due to budgetary cuts, NASA will no longer be launching shuttles. For future space travel, the U.S. will rely on the Russian shuttle Soyuz.
Discovery will be delivering space station supplies and Robonaut, a humanoid robot -- the first ever in space. After its trip, it will take up residence at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum.
The launch is set for Thursday at 4:50 p.m. EST. (Space.com offers a primer on how to see the space launch from Florida, even if you weren't one of the lucky few to get a ticket to the event.)
"Everything is on track and going beautifully with the countdown," said Mike Moses, mission management team chair in a statement from NASA. "We're really looking forward to a very action-packed, successful mission, and everything is on track."
| February 23, 2011; 11:57 AM ET
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