The Retirement of Space Shuttle Discovery

Discovery Landing for the Final Time – March 9, 2011

Although my interests fall within the realm of history, I have always had a fascination with space.  We have all read the news that 2011 is the final year for the Space Shuttle Program and I am saddened by it because watching a Shuttle launch is one helluva spectacle!

On Thursday February 24, 2011 Space Shuttle Discovery made its final trip into space and returned for the final time yesterday.  Those watching could not help but be emotional because there was the gnawing fact that Discovery is now retired.  Discovery has had an illustrious career as the third Space Shuttle out of five (Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour).  Here are some facts from the career of Discovery (from Mother Nature Network):

-The oldest flying Space Shuttle

-Maiden Voyage was August 30, 1984

-Has flown 143 million miles (that is 1 1/2 trips to the sun or 288 trips to the moon!)

-Has made 5,628 orbits of the Earth

-In space for a total of 363 days

-Has carried 246 crewmembers into space, the most of all the Shuttles

-Has flown 39 missions

-Has docked with the International Space Station 13 times

-Carried the first female astronaut into space in 1984

-Carried the first sitting member of Congress into space

-Carried the oldest Astronaut, John Glenn aged 77, into space in 1998

-First Shuttle to dock with the Russian Space Station, Mir

-Piloted by the first female pilot in 1999

-Carried first African American to perform a space walk in 1999

-Has placed 3 satellites in Earth’s orbit

Discovery will be missed by me and many other space aficionados, but there will be two more Space Shuttle launches this year to complete the program.  Endeavour will launch for the final time on April 19 and Atlantis will close out the program when it launches on June 28.  I am seriously considering trekking to Florida in June for the final Space Shuttle Launch.  We thank the crews and Discovery for their service and I leave you with an image of the great Shuttle prepared for takeoff!

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