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Space Shuttle Discovery ready to launch

The Space Shuttle Discovery is ready for its final flight to the International Space Station Thursday, say NASA officials.

STS-133 Astronauts, from left, pilot Eric Boe, commander Steve Lindsey, and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Nicole Stott and Michael Barratt, walk across the tarmac after arriving at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday. The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to lift off Thursday afternoon on an 11-day mission to the International Space Station.

Chris O'Meara/AP

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NASA's shuttle Discovery is fit as a fiddle for its planned launch tomorrow (Feb. 24), setting the stage for the spacecraft's final trip to the International Space Station, space agency officials say.

After months of delays, Discovery is once again slated to lift off Thursday at 4:50 p.m. EST (2150 GMT) from a seaside pad here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle's STS-133 mission is the last flight of Discovery before it is retired.

"Everything is on track and going beautifully in the countdown," Discovery's mission management team chief Mike Moses told reporters today after shuttle officials cleared the orbiter for launch. "We're more than ready for tomorrow's launch."

The shuttle will be hauling critical supplies, including hardware, a storage module and a humanoid robot assistant, called Robonaut 2, to the International Space Station on its final flight. Two spacewalks are also planned, to perform routine station maintenance.

Discovery's flight has been delayed since November due to fuel tank concerns and other glitches. Weather forecasts are currently predicting an 80 percent chance of nice, clear conditions for Thursday's launch.

"We're ready to fly STS-133," Moses said. "We've been ready from a mission standpoint for quite a while, and now the hardware is in line and ready to go."


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