March 10, 2011 — Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of six astronauts ended a 13-day journey of more than 5 million miles and concluded the spacecraft's 27-year career with an 11:57 a.m. EST landing Wednesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
STS-133 was the last mission for the longest-serving veteran of NASA's space shuttle fleet. Since 1984, Discovery flew 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles.
STS-133 delivered the Pressurized Multipurpose Module, or PMM, which was converted from the Multipurpose Logistics Module, to the International Space Station. The PMM can host experiments in fluid physics, materials science, biology, biotechnology and other areas. It also brought critical spare components, the Express Logistics Carrier 4 and Robonaut 2 to the orbiting outpost. R2 became the first human-like robot in space and a permanent resident of the station.
"It performed extraordinarily well in orbit," launch director Mike Leinbach told the Houston Chronicle. "The launch was excellent. The on-orbit mission success speaks for itself, well over 100 percent of the objectives accomplished. The landing today was outstanding.
"We wanted to go out on a high note, and Discovery has done it. We couldn't ask for any more. It was virtually a perfect mission."
Discovery's next flight will be to the Smithsonian Institution, the Houston Chronicle reported. The Smithsonian covets Discovery because it is the fleet leader, having flown the most shuttle missions and some of NASA's most historic flights, including launching the Hubble Space Telescope.
With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the launch of shuttle Endeavour on its STS-134 mission, targeted to lift off on April 19. Endeavour's flight will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station, which will use the unique environment of space to advance knowledge of the universe, leading to a better understanding of the universe's origin.
Space shuttle Discovery rolls down the Shuttle Landing Facility's Runway 15 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing its 39th and final flight on Wednesday.
Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The crew of space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission, the final flight for NASA's oldest active shuttle. The astronauts are, from left, Mission Specialists Nicole Stott and Michael Barratt, Pilot Eric Boe, Commander Steve Lindsey and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew and Steve Bowen.
Photo credit: NASA TV