The Final Countdown: Discovery Space Shuttle To Be Launched into Last Space Mission

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The space shuttle Discovery is prepared for launch at launch pad 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, February 23, 2011.

REUTERS/Joe Skipper

NASA’s most-flown space shuttle is ready for its final takeoff.

Six astronauts are headed to space on the final voyage of NASA’s most veteran space craft. Discovery‘s 39th and final voyage will begin and end from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Steve Lindsey will lead the team of six, including pilot Eric Boe and specialists Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt, Nicole Scott and Alvin Drew.

(More on See TIME’s cover story on Discovery)

The trip’s scheduled to last 11 days, launching off at 4:50 p.m. Thursday. The mission will reach the International Space Station on its third day in space. When Discovery returns to Florida 12 days from now, it will have traveled 143 million miles over the course of 26 years.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is planning to travel on NASA’s next space mission, launching in April.

(More on See TIME’s special “40th Aniversary of the Moon Landing.”)

Discovery last tried to launch in November 2010, although the launch was postponed due to small cracks found on the shuttle’s external mid-section.