The Space Shuttle Discovery started a new mission after its retirement. She will become an engine of Imagination, Inspiration and Education in her new home at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia.
Gen. Jack Dailey, director of the museum welcomed the new arrival on 19 April 2012. A large audience attended the ceremony, in which the shuttles Enterprise and Discovery were united. Among the attendees were 15 of the 32 commanders and many of the crews that had the privilege to ride on the space shuttle during her 30 years of space exploration.
This iconic vehicle will now join other marbles of technology and flight at one of the most prestigious museums in the world.
Discovery was put together in 4 years at the Shuttle Factory in Palmdale, California, from where it was delivered to NASAs Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in November 1983. She flew her first mission, STS-41, on 30 August 1984 (STS stands for Space Transportation System).
The shuttle completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times, and travelled 238 million kilometres (148 million miles).
During her missions, she released Hubble Telescope in 1990 (mission STS-31), launched many satellites, carried many research laboratories, was the first shuttle to reach and dock with the International Space Station in 1999 (STS-96), and in her last mission carried the first experimental robot “Robonaut 2.”
Discovery’s last touchdown was on runway 15 of Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, at 16:57 UTC on Wednesday 9th March 2011, marking the conclusion of Mission STS-133. The last crew on board was composed by: Commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Nicole Stott, Mike Barratt (medic), Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew.
After a year of preparations for exhibition, Discovery was flown mounted atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Virginia on 18 April 2012. The next day she was towed by road (courtesy of Signature Flight Support and Swissport) to its final destination at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Centre.
Among the speakers at the ceremony was Senator John Glenn, who in November 2011 received the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress, The Congressional Gold Medal for his pioneering contributions to space exploration. He flew to orbit for the first time in 1962 on board Mercury Friendship 7 and returned to space at the age of 77 on board Discovery as Payload Specialist in 1998 (STS-95). He reminded the audience of the history and highlights of the shuttle and talked about the future of this vehicle, which will become a symbol of achievement and inspiration for future generations, representing optimism, hope, challenge, leadership and aspiration to explore and to excel.
Astrophysicist Dr. France Cordova, former chief of research at NASA, currently president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and Chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, talked about the contribution of the university to the space program. This institution not only provided hundreds of engineers and scientists to NASA but 22 of their alumni went to space, including the first and last astronauts who went to the moon.
At the end of the ceremony, the official paper: “Certification of Retirement of Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery (OV-103) & Acknowledgment of Transfer from NASA to the Smithsonian Institution”, was signed by the three authorities: J R Dailey, Director of the National Air and Space Museum; Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Senator John H. Glenn, Jr. acted as witness.
So there you go Discovery, God Speed in your new mission, one that will touch generations to come. Thanks for the service to humanity and thanks to NASA and all those thousands of people involved in one way or another in turning the mankind dream of exploring space into a reality.
And this is only the beginning …
The crew that flew Discovery on her last mission
The crew of Mission STS-133 (24 February to 9 March 2011):
Commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Nicole Stott, Mike Barratt (medic), Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew seen here before the launch of their mission. The bottom picture was taken when they met the President of the United States in May 2011.
Karol Bo Bobko 1985 (STS-51-D), Joe Engle 1993 (STS-51-I), Mike Coats 1989, 1991 (STS-29 + 39 now director of Johnson’s Space Centre), Fred Gregory 1989 (STS-33), Bob Cabana 1992 (STS-53 now Director of Kennedy Space Centre), Ken Cameron 1993 (STS-56), Frank Culbertson 1993 (STS-51), Charlie Bolden 1990, 1994 (STS-31 + 60 now Administrator of NASA), Curt Brown 1997-98-99(STS-85 + 95 + 103), Scott Horowitz 2001 (STS-105), Steve Lindsey 2006 + 2011 (STS-121 + 133), Eileen Collins 1995 (STS-63), C J Sturckow, Alan Poindexter.
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¤ All images edited by ren@rt. Source: NASA.