These were the voyages of the spaceship Discovery, which has been in orbit for 364 days and flew out of our planet more times than any other spacecraft in history. During all these missions, she has been a formidable machine.
• 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 5628 orbits around our home planet.
• That’s a whooping total of 142,917,535 miles (230,003,477km). That means that it could have travelled 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.
• It carried Sergei Krikalev, the first Russian ever in a NASA spaceship.
• It also carried John Glenn back into space in STS-95 in October 29, 1998.
• Strangely enough, Discovery returned to space after the Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003. It also had the first night time launch after Columbia.
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.