The NASA space shuttle Discovery flew its last mission on February 24th, and now it's the Endeavour's turn to bow out of service. At 8:56 a.m. EDT this Monday (May 16), the shuttle launched from the Kennedy Space Center for the final time, on a mission to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Not only is it the last flight for the Endeavour, but the second-last flight within the entire shuttle program.
The youngest of the shuttles, the Endeavour entered service in 1992, and has flown 25 missions including this week's. On this mission, STS-134, it is bringing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS), two communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, parts for the Dextre robot and other critical supplies to the space station. The AMS is a particle physics detector, used for finding unusual cosmic material. The shuttle crew will also transfer their spacecraft's orbiter boom sensor system to the ISS, where it will act as an extension to the station's external robotic arm.
The mission is being led by Commander Mark Kelly, who is accompanied on the flight by Pilot Greg H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency. This is the last shuttle flight to include an international astronaut.
The shuttle is scheduled to dock at the ISS at 6:15 a.m. EDT on Wednesday the 25th, then stay there for 16 days. Once its mission is complete, its first landing opportunity at Kennedy will be at 2:32 a.m. on June 1st.
NASA's final shuttle flight will take place sometime in July, when the Atlantis heads for the ISS.