Final Touchdown: All the Facts About Discovery

Illustration for article titled Final Touchdown: All the Facts About Discovery

On February 24, 2011, the space shuttle Discovery launched for the last time ever. Today, twelve days later, it's back on Earth after a farewell wake up call by Captain Kirk.


These were the voyages of the spaceship Discovery, which has been in orbit for 365 days during 39 missions. It flew out of our planet more times than any other spacecraft in history. During all these missions, she has been a formidable, beautiful machine.

Discovery facts

• Discovery was delivered from the factory in Palmdale, California, to the Kennedy Space Center in November 9, 1983.
• Its first mission—STS-41-D—was on August 30, 1984. It was a success, landing on September 5.
• Since then it has been in a record 39 missions, taking 246 people to space and tons of cargo.
• That's 5,628 orbits around our home planet.
• That's a whooping total of 148,221,675 miles (238,539,663 kilometers). That means that it could have traveled to the Sun and back.
• It put into orbit 31 satellites.
• One of the satellites have been a source of amazement and information for the entire world for more than two decades: On mission STS-31, April 24, 1990, Discovery put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. The world and our perception of the Universe changed just a few days later.
• It was the first shuttle to launch into space after the Challenger disaster.
• On STS-82, Discovery reached the highest altitude in the space shuttle program.
• It carried Sergei Krikalev, the first Russian ever in a NASA spaceship.
• It also carried Senator and former astronaut John Glenn back into space in STS-95 in October 29, 1998. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth and also the oldest man to go to space.
• Strangely enough, Discovery returned to space after the Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003. It also had the first night time launch after Columbia.
• On STS-63, February 1, 1995, it had a rendezvous with the Russian MIR station, with the first female pilot in the shuttle program: Eileen M. Collins.
• It was the final shuttle to dock with the Russian MIR space station on mission STS-91, which launched on June 2, 1998.
• Discovery has docked 13 times with the International Space Station.


After its last landing today, Discovery will be decommissioned and send to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, where it will replace Enterprise (the only shuttle that never flew to space).

This is a very sad day for space flight. Farewell, dear friend. You will be very missed.

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space. still the final frontier.

we have tried and tried. as long as we never stop trying, we'll eventually win as a planet.