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    Discovery lifts off for final space voyage

    Washington: US space shuttle Discovery has lifted off on its own final scheduled flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver a storage room to the International Space Station (ISS).

    According to NASA TV, the shuttle blasted off at 4:53 pm. (2153 GMT) on Thursday.

    "Good to be here", Discovery Commander Steve Lindsey radioed soon after the three main engines shut off and the external fuel tank was jettisoned.

    After eight-and-a-half-minutes, Discovery reached orbit and was on its way to the station, Xinhua reported.

    Discovery will deliver to the station the Permanent Multipurpose Module, a spare module that will provide additional storage for the station crew.

    The mission will feature two spacewalks to do maintenance work and install new components. The Robonaut 2 (or R2), the first human-like robot in space after flying on Discovery, will become a permanent resident of the station.

    Discovery was supposed to lift off on November 1, but gas leaks, electrical problems and bad weather forced NASA to postpone its launch.

    This is the 39th flight for Discovery, the first of the three surviving space shuttles to be retired this year. It has logged 230 million km since its first flight in 1984.