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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Technicians in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida load the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, Robonaut 2, or R2, into the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM. Packed inside a launch box called SLEEPR, or Structural Launch Enclosure to Effectively Protect Robonaut, R2 will be placed in the in the same launch orientation as space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew members -- facing toward the nose of the shuttle with the back taking all the weight.                Although R2 will initially only participate in operational tests, upgrades could eventually allow the robot to realize its true purpose -- helping spacewalking astronauts with tasks outside the International Space Station. STS-133 is targeted to launch Nov. 1.  Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin KSC-2010-4447

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Technicians in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida load the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, Robonaut 2, or R2, into the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM. Packed inside a launch box called SLEEPR, or Structural Launch Enclosure to Effectively Protect Robonaut, R2 will be placed in the in the same launch orientation as space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew members -- facing toward the nose of the shuttle with the back taking all the weight. Although R2 will initially only participate in operational tests, upgrades could eventually allow the robot to realize its true purpose -- helping spacewalking astronauts with tasks outside the International Space Station. STS-133 is targeted to launch Nov. 1. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin KSC-2010-4447

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Technicians in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida load the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, Robonaut 2, or R2, into the Permanent Multipurpose Module, or PMM. Packed inside a launch box called SLEEPR, or Structural Launch Enclosure to Effectively Protect Robonaut, R2 will be placed in the in the same launch orientation as space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew members -- facing toward the nose of the shuttle with the back taking all the weight. Although R2 will initially only participate in operational tests, upgrades could eventually allow the robot to realize its true purpose -- helping spacewalking astronauts with tasks outside the International Space Station. STS-133 is targeted to launch Nov. 1. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

The Space Shuttle program was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and lands as a glider. Although the concept had been explored since the late 1960s, the program formally commenced in 1972 and was the focus of NASA's manned operations after the final Apollo and Skylab flights in the mid-1970s. It started with the launch of the first shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, on STS-1. and finished with its last mission, STS-135 flown by Atlantis, in July 2011.

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20/08/2010
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Kennedy Space Center, FL
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NASA
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