US space shuttle Discovery docks at space station

Image caption,
Discovery docks at the International Space Station for the last time

The US space shuttle Discovery has reached the International Space Station.

It has docked for the last time, as it is set to be retired after this mission and placed in a museum.

This is the 13th time the ship has flown to the orbiting platform, where it will deliver a new store room and a sophisticated humanoid robot.

Only two further flights remain by Endeavour and Atlantis, which Nasa wants concluded in the coming months.

Discovery set off on its 11-day mission from the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

The entire orbiter fleet is due to be stood down this year.

The plan then is for US astronauts to fly to the space station on Russian Soyuz rockets until perhaps the middle of the decade, when American hope to be in a position to sell crew launch services to Nasa.

Discovery is regarded as the "leader of the fleet", and was entrusted with both return-to-flight missions following the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

In addition to the deliveries, its crew of six will carry out maintenance tasks on the station. Two spacewalks are planned to perform work on the exterior of the platform.

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