An article at this link ( http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1436) details the activities of mating the Space Shuttle’s orbiter to the External Tank (ET) and Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). At the end of the story are some excellent pictures. Below are the author’s closing remarks
STS 133 is the 39th and last scheduled flight of Discovery .
It's a melancholy moment for the Discovery shuttle team. Everyone is excited to be processing the orbiter for launch. But at the same instant, excitement is mixed with great sadness. Because barring a miraculous extension this is the last launch for Discovery.
The shuttle program is being terminated for lack of money from the Federal Government in Washington, DC - not because of safety concerns. Top shuttle have told me that the shuttle has never been safer to fly than now during its 30 year history of operations.
In the midst of the Great Recession, about 8000 shuttle workers at KSC will be laid off and about another 10,000 to 20,000 jobs are expected to evaporate in the local economy in the communities surrounding the Kennedy Space Center. 900 layoffs are set to occur at KSC on Oct. 1. Thousands more layoffs will occur across the US at the , Michoud Assembly Facility, ATK and elsewhere as the shuttle program is prematurely shutdown at the height of its operational capabilities.
Much of this technological know-how will be dispersed or lost. America's manufacturing capacity will be further dismantled. And America will have no capability to launch people into space on American rockets for many years to come. NASA will have no choice but to pay Russia more than $50 million per seat to launch American astronauts aboard Soyuz to the ISS.