Discovery en route to space station on its final mission

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Associated Press

Posted on February 24, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 25 at 3:47 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Space shuttle Discovery is on its last hurrah as it heads for the International Space Station.

The world's most traveled spaceship thundered into orbit for the 39th and final time on a journey that marks the beginning of the end of the shuttle era.

Discovery is the oldest of NASA's three surviving space shuttles and the first to be decommissioned this year. Two missions remain, first by Atlantis and then Endeavour, to end the 30-year program.

A computer problem popped up minutes before liftoff. The issue was resolved and Discovery blasted off three minutes late.

Some pieces of foam insulation broke off four minutes into the flight, but NASA isn't worried.

When Discovery reaches the space station Saturday, it will deliver an experimental humanoid robot called Robonaut 2, or "R2" for short.

In a tweet sent by a NASA spokeswoman, R2 announced: "I'm in space! HELLO UNIVERSE!!!"

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<<CUT …308 (02/24/11)>> 00:13 "and 51 seconds"

Bill Gerstenmeir (GUR'-sten-my-ur), NASA associate administrator for space operations

NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmeir says they're not overly concerned about chunks of foam that were spotted falling from the external fuel tanks during Discovery's liftoff.

<<CUT …309 (02/24/11)>> 00:16 "mechanism we understand"

Bill Gerstenmeir (GUR'-sten-my-ur), NASA associate administrator for space operations

NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmeir says engineers will investigate if there's any damage from falling foam.

<<CUT …310 (02/24/11)>> 00:17 "best of luck"

Bill Gerstenmeir (GUR'-sten-my-ur), NASA associate administrator for space operations

NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmeir says this was a synchronized event, timed to follow the docking of a European cargo vessel at the international space station.

<<CUT …311 (02/24/11)>> 00:17 "41st Space Wing"

Mike Moses, launch integration manager for Space Shuttle Program

NASA's launch integration manager Mike Moses explains a brief delay during the final countdown before Discovery blasted off.

<<APPHOTO KSC125 (02/24/11)>>

: Space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. Discovery, the world's most traveled spaceship, thundered into orbit for the final time Thursday, heading toward the International Space Station on a journey that marks the beginning of the end of the shuttle era.

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