Backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth's horizon, the European Space Agency's "Johannes Kepler" Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (bottom center) docks to the aft end of the International Space Station's Zvezda Service Module. Credit: …
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Discovery, the most-traveled rocketship ever, is on its final flight.
Astronauts closed the hatches between the shuttle and the International Space Station Sunday afternoon. Discovery's missions total 365 days in space over 39 missions, including this one.
On Monday morning, Discovery will undock from the station for its final return flight to Earth on Wednesday.
The shuttle and its six crew members have spent over a week at the space station, where they delivered and installed a new storage compartment and a humanoid robot named "R2" for Robonaut 2.
After undocking, Discovery will fly around the orbiting lab for picture-taking in its final "victory lap." Then the astronauts will pull out an inspection boom to survey the shuttle for any signs of micrometeorite damage.
"For us on console, it's stick with the business," Flight Director Brian Lunney said. "Take care of the crew, take care of the vehicle, make sure everything's going well."
After Discovery lands, it will be retired from service and sent to the Smithsonian Museum.
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