March 8, 2011

Discovery To Make Its Final Landing On Wednesday

Space shuttle Discovery's crew received the first-ever live wake-up call in the history of the shuttle program Tuesday as it heads home to Earth after completing its final mission.

The shuttle is scheduled to land on Earth Wednesday for the last time, ending its 27-year flying career.

NASA will spend months decommissioning Discovery, then send it to the Smithsonian Institution to live out its days.

The crew awoke to a live music performance on Tuesday morning for the first time in NASA's history.

The lead guitarist of Big Head Todd and the Monsters performed a solo version of "Blue Sky."  The group wrote the song at the request of the 2005 crew of Discovery, which returned NASA to orbit after the Columbia tragedy. 

The song received the top vote in NASA's pick-the-wake-up-music contest to mark the end of the shuttle program.

Shuttle commander Steven Lindsey thanked Mission Control for the special recording, not realizing that the acoustic performance was live.

"Did you just do that live?" Lindsey asked.

"I did just do that live, and I believe it's a first in history," replied Todd Park Mohr. "On behalf of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and songwriters and artists everywhere, we just want to thank you so much for your courage and your bravery and your effort in just giving all of us a better shot at knowing more."

Lindsey said he and his five crewmates wish everyone could see what astronauts see when they look down at Earth. "Hopefully, everybody will be able to do that one of these days," he said. "Hopefully sooner than later."

Commander Steven Lindsey and his crew tested Discovery's flight systems on the eve of their return.

Discovery departed from the International Space Station on Monday, leaving behind a newly installed storage compartment and equipment platform, as well as the first humanoid robot in space.  The shuttle will end its 13-day mission with a noontime landing on Wednesday.


Image Caption: The space shuttle Discovery is seen from the International Space Station as the two orbital spacecraft accomplish their relative separation on March 7. During a post undocking fly-around, the crew of each vessel photographed the opposing craft. Image Credit: NASA


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