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I have been following the news on Discovery shuttle and its six crew commandeered by Steven Lindsey since they blasted off to space 13 days ago and I am keeping awake in my side of the world for them to land safely. And yes the humanoid robot, Robonaut2 which they carried among other things to the International Space Station (ISS). R2 the first humanoid robot to be launched into space will be able to assist astronauts in ISS to perform tasks considered far too dangerous for human. R2 will not return home.

I am just amazed at the orbital vehicle which has been in service for the last 30 years and now on its final flight before being retired. The work of men and women with open mind and boundless energy, inspiring future generation to preserve the human race for years and years to come is truly brilliant.

Discovery lifting off majestically on 24 Feb 2011-Credit NASA

I learnt that there are five of them. Challenger, Columbia, Discovery,Endeavour and Atlantis all inspiring names! The first two unfortunately had met with accidents with the loss of 14 intelligent highly skilled men and women. I salute them. Their sacrifice is not in vain and because of them the following flights have become a lot safer. This year 2011 will see two more missions by Endeavour in April and Atlantis in June to ISS to equip and enhance ISS operations and research capabilities. I am sure you are all able to read all about the shuttle program from the NASA webpage.

Discovery docking with Canadian "Dextre"- Credit NASA

What I want to express here is my admiration for the program and the people involved in it… yes as Commander Lindsey said “Guys you rock!”. The tremendous preparation and rigorous training must be awesome for people like me who will never be able to even come close to them. For a start I am born in the wrong country not that I regret it. I can only dream to be a life-changing space scientist and an astronaut! What is it like to walk in space and to see planet earth from the universe? And to think that humans on earth are fighting among themselves, despots like Ghadafi in Libya, that army general in Myanmar (Burma) even that Taib Mahmud, the old crackpot Chief Minister in Sarawak, Malaysia clinging to power, enriching themselves for years through corrupt practices… Sh*t ( forgive my lingo) these are the people who make life on Earth so unfair and so hard for the weak, the poor and the marginalised.

Robonaut2 - carried by Discovery to ISS - Credit NASA

The space program gives hope to the human race and it also explores possibilities of space science enhancing life on earth and perhaps connecting with friendly creatures out there. The prospects are simply humongous. Hopefully all the findings are used for peaceful purposes. The involvement of countries like Russia, Japan, Canada and Italy with the US in the International Space Station (ISS) will hopefully deter harmful actions.

The International Space Station - Credit NASA

Discovery's Crew STS 133-Credit NASA

With the impending landing in an hour’s time in my part of the world, I like to pray for the safety of Discovery and the crew- my space heroes ( I really would like to shake their hands!) on its 39th and final flight

Discovery on her final return to earth on 9 March 2011-Credit NASA

Welcome home Commander Steven Lindsey, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen and Eric Boe! And NASA I notice you always include a female crew in your space flight making many women proud of Nicole Stott as if she represents the women of the earth!

And congratulation NASA you too rock!


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