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NASA launches Discovery shuttle for final space mission (Photos, Video)

Mission to the International Space Station will bring the first humanoid robot into space and will focus on maintenance work aboard the ISS.

Image: AP Photo/John Raoux

NASA’S AGEING SHUTTLE Discovery has launched for its 133rd and final space flight to the International Space Station (ISS) with six crew members and one humanoid robot on board.

During the launch yesterday evening, rockets burned fuel at a rate which would drain the average swimming pool in about 25 seconds, according to NASA.

One crew member had to be replaced after suffering an injury while cycling last month, but otherwise the Discovery mission kicked off as planned yesterday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

NASA says the shuttle is expected to dock with the ISS tomorrow and its crew will carry out two spacewalks to carry out maintenance on the ISS and store spare components for future missions.

Speaking at the launch, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said:

Discovery’s crew - including the first-ever dexterous robot crew member, Robonaut 2 – will continue America’s leadership in human and robotic spaceflight, and support important scientific and technical research aboard the space station.

The R2 robot – comprised of a human-shaped head, torso, two arms and hands – is part of the space agency’s programme to develop robots which can help people work and explore in space. Although initially R2 will be stationed on a fixed pedestal inside the ISS, NASA plans to upgrade it later by adding legs and wheels.

Check out a gallery of incredible images from the shuttle’s launch:

NASA launches Discovery shuttle for final space mission (Photos, Video)
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Watch the launch, courtesy of NASA TV:

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