The Discovery space shuttle had her final launch yesterday, February 24, 2011. The three space shuttles, Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis are fast approaching their demise. The final space shuttle launch, marking the end of the shuttle’s launching duties which have served American space flight for the past three decades, is scheduled for June 28th. Atlantis will make her final flight, and that will be it.
On a brighter note, Discovery’s launch yesterday was carrying some pretty impressive cargo with it. NASA’s first robot astronaut took a ride to its home, the International Space Station (ISS). R2, the robot’s name, is the next step in robotic engineering. It’s human like movements make it capable of performing tasks at a higher level than any previous space robot. However, for the moment, scientists and engineers are simply curious to see how this robot operates within the ISS. There will be no space walks for this R2, but perhaps later generations of R2 robots will get the chance to experience the vastness of space, and eventually become a permanent replacement for humans in space walk missions. This would reduce the risk for human astronauts by quite a bit since space walks are considered to be one of the most dangerous missions an astronaut can conduct.