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The Countdown to Final Liftoff for Space Shuttle Discovery
NASA's latest launch delay for the space shuttle Discovery could push the spacecraft's final mission into the Christmas holiday, or even postpone it completely until February. It's officially NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. Endeavour is scheduled to lift off at the end of February. The White House wants NASA focused on next-generation rockets and spacecraft that could carry astronauts to asteroids and Mars.   
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Discovery Journey Begins

In this Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, Space shuttle Discovery begins its 3.4-mile journey to Launch Pad 39A after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Flight Simulation

Preparing for Flight, attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, STS-133 commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe (background), and mission specialists Tim Kopra (right foreground) and Alvin Drew participate in a simulation exercise in the motion-base shuttle mission simulator in the Jake Garn Simulation and Training Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

(NASA)

Taking to the Sky

Wispy clouds are illuminated by a bright quarter moon behind the tail of NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, flying observatory during telescope characterization testing in 2008. SOFIA will complement the Hubble, Spitzer, Herschel and James Webb space telescopes and major Earth-based telescopes. The mission, a joint program by NASA and DLR Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Center), features a German-built 100-inch (2.5 meter) diameter far-infrared telescope weighing 20 tons mounted in the rear fuselage of a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. Image Credit: NASA/Tom Tschida

(NASA)

A Break in Training

A Break in Training At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the STS-133 crew takes a break from a simulated launch countdown to ham it up on the 195-foot level of Launch Pad 39A. From left are, Pilot Eric Boe, Mission Specialist Michael Barratt, Commander Steve Lindsey, and Mission Specialists Tim Kopra, Nicole Stott, and Alvin Drew. The simulation was part of a week-long Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test. Discovery and its STS-133 crew will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module, packed with supplies and critical spare parts, as well as Robonaut 2, the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

(NASA)

The New Moon

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, observed its first lunar transit when the new moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the sun. With SDO watching the sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark moon created a partial eclipse of the sun.

(NASA)

Solar Flares Illuminate

Crackling with Solar Flares Fast-growing sunspot 1112 is crackling with solar flares. So far, none of the blasts has hurled a substantial CME, or coronal mass ejection, toward Earth. In addition, a vast filament of magnetism is cutting across the sun's southern hemisphere. This filament is so large it spans a distance greater than the separation of Earth and the moon. A bright 'hot spot' just north of the filament's midpoint is UV radiation from sunspot 1112. The proximity is no coincidence; the filament appears to be rooted in the sunspot below. If the sunspot flares, it could cause the entire structure to erupt. Thus far, none of the flares has destabilized the filament. Image Credit: NASA

(NASA)

Spacecraft Roll Out

The Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. The TMA-01M is a new modified Soyuz vehicle that features upgraded avionics and a digital cockpit display. The crew of Expedition 25 Soyuz Commander Alexander Kaleri, NASA Flight Engineer Scott Kelly and Russian Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 8, 2010 at 5:10 a.m. Kazakhstan time. Photo Credit (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

(NASA/Carla Cioffi)

The Walk Through

NASA workers walk along a platform on the fixed service structure next to space Shuttle Discovery on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Discovery is scheduled to launch Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP)

Legendary Shuttle

NASA's oldest and most traveled space shuttle, Discovery was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. The second and third Hubble service missions were also conducted by Discovery.

(NASA)

Greetings from Robonaut 2

In this Aug. 4, 2010 picture provided by NASA, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, STS-133 mission specialist, shakes hands with Robonaut 2 during a news conference in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ron Diftler, NASA Robonaut project manager, is at left. Robonaut 2 is hitching a one-way ride to the International Space Station on the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. NASA hopes one day the will assist flesh-and-bone astronauts in orbit. (AP Photo/NASA, Lauren Harnett)

(NASA-JOHNSON SPACE CENTER)

Face - Off

Face-Off Robonaut 2, a dexterous, humanoid astronaut helper, will fly to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. Although it will initially only participate in operational tests, upgrades could eventually allow the robot to realize its true purpose -- helping spacewalking astronauts with tasks outside the space station. Image Credit: NASA

(NASA)

Discovery's Last Ride

Discovery's Last Ride This image of space shuttle Discovery was taken as the craft began its nighttime trek, known as "rollout," from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. It took the shuttle, attached to its external fuel tank, twin solid rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform, about six hours to complete the move atop a crawler-transporter. On STS-133, its final planned mission, Discovery will take the Permanent Multipurpose Module packed with supplies and critical spare parts, as well as Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA/Tony Gray

(AP)

The Countdown to Final Liftoff for Space Shuttle Discovery

NASA's latest launch delay for the space shuttle Discovery could push the spacecraft's final mission into the Christmas holiday, or even postpone it completely until February. It's officially NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. Endeavour is scheduled to lift off at the end of February. The White House wants NASA focused on next-generation rockets and spacecraft that could carry astronauts to asteroids and Mars.   

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