Space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station with be its 39th and final launch. (Michael R. Brown / Florida Today)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — With launch pad 39A and shuttle Discovery as a backdrop, the six astronauts who will take the vehicle on its final flight paused briefly last week to reflect on the significance of their mission.
"It's bittersweet," said shuttle commander Steve Lindsey. "You've probably heard that a lot."
"It's a privilege to be able to fly that last flight on Discovery, but it's also sad because after that, it's retired," he said.
This mission to the International Space Station, set to launch Nov. 1, will be Discovery's 39th — more than any other orbiter.
Once the shuttle returns, it will be prepped for display at the Smithsonian Institution.
"When you walk inside Discovery, it still looks like a new car, even after almost 30 years of service. It's a great machine, a great vehicle," Lindsey said.
"I just hope that when it goes to the Smithsonian that it's laid out in a way such that the public can go through and see it and get a feeling of what it was like to fly it."
While in orbit, the crew plans two spacewalks. But they'll also take some time to honor Discovery's final flight, including carrying a commemorative medallion.
"You cannot not celebrate the history and heritage of this ship, and we plan to do that certainly after we land," Mission Specialist Mike Barratt said.
Michelle Spitzer reports for Florida Today.