The last mission of the Shuttle-Mir program begins as the Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at 6:06:24 p.m. EDT June 2. A torrent of water is seen flowing onto the mobile launcher platform (MLP) from numerous large quench nozzles, or "rainbirds," mounted on its surface. This water, part of the Sound Suppression System, helps protect the orbiter and its payloads from damage by acoustical energy and rocket exhaust reflected from the flame trench and MLP during launch. On board Discovery are Mission Commander Charles J. Precourt; Pilot Dominic L. Gorie; and Mission Specialists Wendy B. Lawrence, Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Janet Lynn Kavandi and Valery Victorovitch Ryumin. The nearly 10-day mission will feature the ninth and final Shuttle docking with the Russian space station Mir, the first Mir docking for the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery, the first on-orbit test of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), and the first flight of the new Space Shuttle super lightweight external tank. Astronaut Andrew S. W. Thomas will be returning to Earth as an STS-91 crew member after living more than four months aboard Mir. (Photo Release Date: 06/02/98 )
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