As space shuttle Discovery prepares to return home from its final mission to space, let's take a look back at the STS-133 mission, an historic "last" for the program's most-traveled shuttle.
"I think the legacy that this shuttle has made for herself is just nothing short than cause for celebration," said mission specialist Michael Barratt during press conference from orbit on March 8.
"It's going to be sad when it's over, when we land tomorrow or the next day," said STS-133 commander Steve Lindsey. "The hardest part of this for me is giving up the capability. It can do everything except leave low-Earth orbit…There is not a single thing wrong with her. Every single system and every piece of every system is working just like it's brand new."
After a successful launch, the Remote Manipulator System/Orbiter Boom Sensor System (RMS/OBSS) equipped with special cameras, begins to conduct thorough inspections of the shuttle's thermal tile system on flight day 2. Photo credit: NASA
This view of the nose, the forward underside and crew cabin of the space shuttle Discovery was provided by an Expedition 26 crew member during a survey of the approaching STS-133 vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Backdropped by a blue and white part of Earth, space shuttle Discovery is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 26 crew member as the shuttle approaches the International Space Station during STS-133 rendezvous and docking operations. Docking occurred at 2:14 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 26, 2011. A Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the space station is also featured in the image. Credit: NASA
European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli (left), Expedition 26 flight engineer; and NASA astronaut Steve Bowen, STS-133 mission specialist, are pictured in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station as they prepare for the start of the mission's first spacewalk. Credit: NASA
The first spacewalk of the mission lasted six-hours and 34-minutes. Alvin Drew and Steve Bowen installed a power extension cable, move a failed ammonia pump module to the External Stowage Platform 2 on the Quest Airlock for return to Earth at a later date, installed a camera wedge on the right hand truss segment, installed extensions to the mobile transporter rail and exposed the Japanese "Message in a Bottle" experiment to space.
Cady Coleman, Expedition 26 flight engineer, is pictured near a Japanese-designed metal cylinder floating freely in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station while space shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station. On Feb. 28, spacewalkers Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew opened and 'filled' the cylinder, named "Message in a Bottle", with space, or rather the vacuum of outer space, and then sealed it to be brought back to Earth with the Discovery crew. Credit: NASA.
NASA astronauts Scott Kelly (foreground), Expedition 26 commander; and Steve Lindsey, STS-133 commander, are pictured in the newly-installed Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA.
Backdropped by Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, this view shows the Cupola of the International Space Station and a docked Russian Progress spacecraft, taken during the STS-133 mission. Credit: NASA.
Joint crew photo inside the newest module, the PMM - which is basically a big storage closet for the ISS. The STS-133 crew members, all attired in red shirts(from left)are NASA astronauts Alvin Drew, Eric Boe (below), Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen and Steve Lindsey (below). The dark blue-attired Expedition 26 crew members, from bottom left, are NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. In the center of the photo are Dmitry Kondratyev and Alexander Y. Kaleri.
The space shuttle Discovery as seen from the International Space Station, flying over southwestern coast of Morocco in the northern Atlantic. During a post undocking fly-around, the crew members aboard the two spacecraft collected a series of photos of each other's vehicle. Credit: NASA
Larger versions of all these images can be found at NASA's Human Spaceflight website, under the STS-133 gallery.
Click here to see our gallery of launch images for Discovery's final flight.
Here's a video recap of the STS-133 mission:
This post by Nancy Atkinson originally appeared at Universe Today.