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Space shuttle Discovery countdown: leaks fixed, orbiter's last mission set

Space shuttle Discovery gets the nod for a launch Wednesday, the craft's last and the next to last of the 38-year program. A 2-day delay followed repairs to leaks tied to an orbital-maneuvering engine.

This photo shows the space shuttle Discovery on launch pad 39a early in the morning of Oct. 31, at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA says space shuttle Discovery is finally leak-free and ready to blast off Nov. 3.

Bill Ingalls/NASA/AP

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The space shuttle Discovery and its six-member crew received the green light Monday for launch Wednesday afternoon to bring supplies, a new cargo-storage module, and a robotic astronaut "cadet," Robonaut 2, to the International Space Station.

The 11-day mission marks the final flight for Discovery and the penultimate scheduled launch for the 38-year-old shuttle program. The final shuttle mission is set for February, as NASA ends the program and redirects its human-spaceflight activities and tight budgets toward exploring destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, where the space station circles the planet.

"The mission's in great shape," said Michael Moses, who heads the mission management team during the shuttle's pre-launch activities. His comment at a briefing Monday follows the successful repair over the weekend of leaks that could have undercut the performance of one of two powerful engines the shuttles use to reach their final orbits, to change orbits, or to slow for reentry.

The leaks cropped up last Friday as NASA was about to begin the countdown for a Monday launch.


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