On its final flight, the Space Shuttle Discovery finally landed at Washington Dulles International Airport earlier today, on Tuesday morning, April 17, 2012 in Chantilly, Virginia, ready to be transferred to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for its retirement.
Space Shuttle Discovery, not quite in its usual mode of transportation in flight from Kennedy Space Center, was mounted atop a 747 shuttle carrier aircraft, making one wonder how the 747 was capable of piggy-backing such a craft on its fuselage!
The Discovery was the longest-serving orbiter, of Orbiter Vehicle Designation OV-103, and was in operation from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011.
During its service to NASA, the Discovery was NASA’s Orbiter Fleet leader, having flown 39 successful missions over its 27-year career, which followed those of Columbia and Challenger.
Discovery was utilized by NASA to perform research and International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions, which included flying the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.
This final, historic flight gives closure to the fact that the entire Space Shuttle program is being retired by NASA. What will be the next phase in space exploration?