NASA Reveals Crew for Last Scheduled Shuttle Mission

STS-121 Shuttle Commander Looks Towards Launch
STS-121 commander Steven Lindsey undergoes emergency egress training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center. (Image credit: NASA.)

NASA onFriday revealed the six people who will blast off on what is currently thelast scheduled space shuttle mission. The list includes the agency?s top astronautand two others that are in orbit today.

Veteranspaceflyer Steve Lindsey - NASA?s chief astronaut - will command the STS-133 shuttlemission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The shuttleDiscovery is slatedto blast off in September 2010 on the eight-day trek that - if NASA?scurrent plan holds - will mark the end of the shuttle era after 29 years ofspaceflight.

?It?s thefinal scheduled opportunity to take supplies tothe station, so they?re going to be taking a large number of supplies,? NASAspokesperson James Hartsfield told ?Certainly, in that sense it?s acritical mission.?

Joining Lindsey,who will make his fifth spaceflight on the mission, will be Air Force Col. EricBoe as Discovery?s pilot. Mission specialists Alvin Drew, Timothy Kopra,Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott round out the final planned shuttle crew. Allare veteran spaceflyers.

Barratt andStott are currently flying aboard the International Space Station today asmembers of its long-duration Expedition 20 crew. Kopra just returnedto Earth last week with Discovery?s STS-128 crew to end his own two-monthflight to the station.

?I thinkthat?s a first, actually?certainly a first to have two of them in space,?Hartsfield said of astronauts being named to a future shuttle flight while stillaboard the station.

Lindsey andhis crew will begin training for their mission next month, when he will hand over his chiefastronaut position to veteran spaceflyer Peggy Whitson. Whitson, whobecame the first female commander of the space station in 2007, will be thefirst woman to hold NASA?s top astronaut job.

Is itthe last shuttle flight?

NASA plansto retireits three shuttles in the next year or two after completing construction ofthe International Space Station. Six more shuttle missions are planned betweennow and Discovery?s STS-133 flight.

The spaceagency plans to replace the shuttle fleet with new Orion spacecraft and theirAres I rockets, but they are not expected to begin operational flights until2015. NASA?s plan for human spaceflight, which includes returning astronauts tothe moon by 2020, is currently under review by President Barack Obama?sadministration.

Anindependent White House committee has submittedseveral options for the president?s review, some of which includingextending the space shuttle program to fill in the five-year gap that currentlyexists between the shuttle?s retirement and its successor.

?We lookedat a lot of options in order to close the gap,? the committee?s chairman NormanAugustine, a former Lockheed Martin CEO, told a House subcommittee this week,adding that the gap would likely span seven years instead of five. ?The only viable option to close that gap is to continue to operate the space shuttle.?

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.