Leaving the Kennedy Space Center, its home for more than 30 years, the space shuttle Discovery made its final flight across Cape Canaveral to cheering crowds. It was riding on the back of a Boeing 747 jet towards a well earned retirement.
Glorifying in its monumental 39 journeys into space, the shuttle will remain in an annex of the Smithsonian Museum, the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Washington DC. There you can examine engines, helicopters and ultralights, as well as the latest addition, the Discovery enclosed in the three level Boeing Aviation Hanger. You can even admire planes hanging from the ceiling. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet in the world is also on display in the hanger.
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft prepared for take off with Discovery piggyback at dawn at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: Photo credit: (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
The Shuttle Discovery flew its final mission, STS-133, in February/March 2011. With the end of NASA?s space program, aircraft are being shuttled around the country to new homes. The shuttle Enterprise goes from DC to New York to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Endeavor is going to be in Los Angeles while Atlantis will stay at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a reminder of where it all began.
Since April, 1981, NASA?s shuttles have carried astronauts into space. Columbia was their first chariot to the stars, then Challenger. Both ended their careers in disaster. The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. In 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida 73 seconds into its flight. In both cases, seven astronauts lost their lives doing what they had trained so vigorously to achieve. Other missions were extremely successful. The remaining NASA astronauts will use the Russian Soyuz to travel to the International Space Station.
Technicians removed some of the hardware from the shuttles for possible future use and made the shuttles safe for display purposes. If you want a piece of history for your organization, many of the artifacts from the space missions are available for other museums and educational institutions. Go to http://artifacts.nasa.gov/ for more information.