Space shuttle Discovery completed the orbiter's final mission this week. It landed at the Kennedy Space Center this week for the final time. Check out it's final landing here.
There are only two space shuttle flights left until NASA closes it's doors on a program that started thirty years ago on April 12, 1981. The two remaining flights will launch soon. Endeavour will fly it's last flight on April 19th and will be commanded by Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabrielle Gifford, the congress woman who was shot in Arizona earlier this year. The final shuttle mission will be flown by the space shuttle Atlantis on June 28. This
final flight from the Atlantis will be the 135th time a space shuttle has flown a mission.
According to NASA's website Discovery is named for two famous sailing ships; one sailed by Henry Hudson in 1610-11 to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the other by James Cook on a voyage during which he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.
Here are a few highlights from this incredible piece of machinery.
- It's flown into space more than any other space vehicle.
- Took the Hubble Telescope into space.
- Launched countless satellites into space.
- Ferried people and modules to and from the International Space Station.
- Over 350 days in orbit.
- Circled Earth over 5600 times.
- Traveled over 143 million miles (That's to the Sun and 1/2 way back)
- The first space shuttle to visit the Russian Space Station Mir.
One of the most important statistics in my mind is the role Discovery had in bringing people back into space after both the Challenger and the Columbia disasters. It was the first shuttle to fly after each of these disasters, restoring America's pride and faith in the space program. It reminded us and the world of the resolve the people of the United States have. It was a symbol for determination and persistence and reminded us all that we must rise from the ashes of tragedies like these and keep moving forward. If not, then the deaths of those astronauts would have been in vain.
The space shuttle program has always been an incredible source of pride for me, as I was too young to experience first-hand the rocket programs and moon landings so many decades before the first space shuttle ever lifted off. I've grown up with the space shuttles and now that they are about to retire it gives me the same feeling I get when other great events in life are coming to an end. Sadness that they are going yet excitement to see what their children and grandchildren will be like. Congratulations and Farewell Discovery, you've had a great career and I enjoyed watching you over the last 30 years.
What are your thoughts of the Space Shuttle Discovery? Is it something you enjoy or something you just don't care about? Leave a comment or take the poll on the left side of this posting. It's open until March 17th.
If you have time check out this video from NASA that is a great history of the Space Shuttle Discovery.