Space Shuttle Discovery Rides Off Into History

With today's picture-perfect completion of its flawless final mission, designated STS-133, the space shuttle Discovery ends a 27-year odyssey of unparalleled milestones in the history of NASA's first reusable spacecraft.

"To the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say, 'Farewell, Discovery,' " announced "voice of Mission Control" Josh Byerly as the acclaimed spaceship made a smooth touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Of the five original spacecraft in the shuttle fleet, Discovery's achievements are unmatched.

According to NASA, the Discovery, after its 1984 maiden voyage:

Flew to space more than any other shuttle, logging 39 missions under its belt -- almost 150 million miles -- and bringing more astronauts (nearly 250) into orbit than any other vehicle.

Was the first spacecraft to retrieve a satellite and return it to Earth (1984).
Became the only shuttle to fly four times in one year, and one of those missions included the first sitting member of Congress, Utah Sen. Jake Garn (1985).

Carried the historic Hubble Space Telescope to orbit (1990).

Welcomed the first cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev, to fly on an American spacecraft (1994).
Followed that up as the first shuttle to rendezvous with the Russian Mir Space Station. That mission also featured the first woman, Eileen Collins, to ever pilot an American spacecraft, as well as the first African-American, Bernard Harris Jr., to perform a spacewalk (1995).

Returned Sen. John Glenn -- the first American to orbit Earth in 1962 -- to space, where he became the oldest human to fly in space at the age of 77. (1998)

Restored America's will to continue the space program by being the first shuttle that returned to space (1988 and 2005) after the losses of both the Challenger and Columbia.
Delivered Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, to the International Space Station (2011).

As NASA prepares to end the shuttle program this year, one possible retirement home for Discovery may be in a prime display area at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington.

But the space agency is holding off revealing plans for the final resting places of Discovery and its siblings Endeavour and Atlantis until April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight.
More Space Shuttle Discovery Rides Off Into History

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