Narrator: Every space shuttle flight is an adventure that astronauts take strides to commemorate with items from Earth. That commemoration is taking on more meaning for STS-133 because it is the last mission for NASA's oldest active shuttle.
Mission Specialist Michael Barratt talked recently about its importance.
NASA Astronaut Michael Barratt: I don’t think you can take a final voyage of a ship of exploration and not take some moments to celebrate its history. And I think many people know that our ship, Discovery, which is a ship of exploration, was named after several predecessor ships also named Discovery, all ships of exploration.
Narrator: Discovery's crew is expected to mark the spacecraft's contributions with a message recorded in space. Discovery was the third shuttle built and flew its first mission in 1984. Its distinguished accomplishments include launching NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and helping to build the International Space Station.
The ship will carry hundreds of patches as it heads into orbit. When it returns, the patches will be handed out as items bearing a direct connection to the space environment Discovery explored for 26 years.
Barratt talked about one of several unique commemoratives making the trip.
Barratt: We will be carrying a medallion from the Royal Society that was struck in honor of Captain Cook and we'll be doing a little commemorative, just a recorded commemorative of that. On Cook's third voyage, there was a ship called Discovery and that was the main ship from which our ship, Discovery, took its name.
Narrator: Also flying on Discovery will be two small LEGO space shuttles, each with a tiny toy astronaut, to help celebrate a new educational partnership between the toy building brick maker and NASA.
The astronauts also are taking many mementos of personal achievement, including medallions from their schools, service units and squadrons.
Even William Shakespeare is going along, in the form of a small action figure from the University of Texas English Department.
A plush giraffe mascot from the Hermann childrens' hospital at the
is expected to inspire kids who see it after the mission. University of Texas
The astronauts also are taking several shirts and other clothing with special meaning to them. There's a T-shirt from
in Lomax Junior High School , a blue, Hawaiian-style shirt from La Porte, Texas 's Education Office and a T-shirt from League City Volunteer Fire Department Station Two. NASA Johnson Space Center
In addition to the small items the astronauts have asked to be included in Discovery's cargo, the shuttle will carry hundreds of flags and bookmarks that speak to the shuttle's legacy.
The recollections will not end when Discovery lands, Barratt said.
Barratt: Again, you can not, not celebrate the history and the heritage of this ship and we plan to continue that certainly after we land.