On the heels of spending thirteen days in space on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, the space shuttle Discovery is in the final hours of her final spaceflight as her crew of six prepare for landing today.
Lead by commander Steve Lindsey, Discovery's all veteran crew includes pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Mike Barratt and Nicole Stott.
Light scattered clouds at 3,000 and 20,000 feet, with wind gusts near 21 knots down the runway is forecast for landing. A 10-knot crosswind is also within limits for landing.
At 8:12 a.m. EST, the crew will begin closing the shuttle's twin payload bay doors for landing.
Lindsey and Boe will fire the craft's two orbital maneuvering system engines for 151 seconds at 10:52:09 a.m., to slow Discovery down by 188 m.p.h, allowing Discovery to loose speed and begin her free fall out of earth orbit.
Discovery will be flying at this time with the tail in the direction of travel and payload bay toward earth.
As Discovery's final minutes in space tick down, the spacecraft's nose will pitch forward 140-degrees as Lindsey lines up Discovery for reentry into the earth's atmosphere.
Entry interface comes thirty minutes prior to touchdown at an altitude of 400,000 feet on Discovery's 202 orbit of the STS-133 flight.
As Discovery glides over the Pacific Ocean and up over the Caribbean Sea, Lindsey will have the shuttle in a steep dive to prevent drag on the powerless glider.
Discovery will cross over central Florida just south of Tampa Bay and two minutes later south of Orlando, Discovery will head into Kennedy, performing a 252-degree left overhead turn into runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.
Touchdown is planned for 11:57 a.m., closing out Discovery's thirty-ninth and final spaceflight which have spanned nearly twenty-seven years.
NASA has not activate Edwards, AFB in California as a back up landing site today, only Kennedy.
Thursday's weather is nearly 100% unfavorable as a frontal system brings storms and possible hail to the Cape Canaveral area. Discovery can stay aloft as late as Friday if necessary.
On hand at the runway to welcome the crew will be one of Discovery's flight director, Royce Renfrew, and NASA asst. administrator Lori Garver to name a few.