After a last minute computer hiccup almost threatened its thirty-ninth liftoff to the space, the six member crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery managed to blast off successfully from the Kennedy Space Centre.
The launch of Discovery was delayed for over three months as cracks developed in an external tank. In its final mission — from February 24, 2011 to March 7, 2011 — Discovery will deliver supplies and a module to the International Space Station.
The Space Shuttle Discovery is the oldest of the three currently operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA. The other two operational orbiters are Atlantis and Endeavour, the final missions for which are also scheduled for the later part of this year.
Flying for the first time in 1984, Discovery became the third operational orbiter. Before its final and thirty-ninth space mission, it has circled the Earth 5,628 times, flying for over 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) and spending 352 days in space with 246 crews. Discovery has also deployed 31 satellites including Hubble Space Telescope.
Out of the five operational space shuttles in the space shuttle fleet of NASA, Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986 over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of central Florida, killing all its seven crew members.
In another disaster, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its way back to Earth on February 1, 2003, before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, disintegrating over Texas during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the death of all the seven crew members.
The sixth Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first space shuttle orbiter of NASA, built for performing test flights in the atmosphere. It had no engines, and had no functional heat shield, making it unfit for space missions.