Discovery, the oldest surviving space shuttle of NASA’s fleet, is about to embark on her last journey- to the Smithsonian Institution.
Discovery’s maiden voyage was launched in 1984, and she has traveled to outer space 39 times since then. Her experience makes her the number one shuttle in history, completing more missions in our solar system than any other.
Discovery’s feats include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit; connecting with Mir, the Russian space station with the first female shuttle pilot; being the first U.S. spaceship to launch a Russian cosmonaut; boosting shuttle flights after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies; and returning John Glenn to orbit.
Discovery will arrive at the Smithsonian’s hangar via a modified jumbo jet, after a farewell flight over Cape Canaveral and Washington D.C. Security officers, firemen, shuttle workers and, of course, Discovery’s last astronaut crew all gathered at Kennedy Space Center to say their goodbyes.
“It’s good to see her one more time, and it’s great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery,” Steven Lindsey, the last astronaut to command the shuttle, said emotionally. “It’s also sad…it’s sad to see that the program is over.”
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Discovery will replace Enterprise, the spaceship prototype that was used only in landing tests over four decades ago. Enterprise will go on display in New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
Stephanie Stilson, a NASA manager, said “To see her like this is quite an amazing site. We’re finally here.” She added that it’s been almost exactly one year since Discovery’s last mission.
Still, “there’s no denying the sadness associated with it,” according to another of Discovery’s last crew.