After 27 years in service, the space shuttle Discovery landed safely in Florida after its last mission ever.
NASA reported the crew of
the space shuttle Discovery landed safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida
March 9 after its last mission into space. With this last flight, Discovery has
spent a total of 365 days in space, over the course of 39 missions. It will
have orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled more than 148 million miles,
including this journey, the 5.3-million-mile mission STS-133.
After 27 years of service
during which it racked up exactly one cumulative year in space and an odometer
reading of more than 148 million miles, space shuttle Discovery's distinguished
career has flown into the history books.
"And to the ship that
has led the way time and time again, we say farewell, Discovery," said
NASA Commentator Josh Byerly.
Commander Steve Lindsey said
when the orbiter stopped on the runway: "And Houston, Discovery. For the
final time, wheel-stop." He also thanked the Kennedy team for giving the
crew a "terrific vehicle for a final flight."
Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and
Mission Specialist Nicole Stott powered up Discovery's flight-control system
and tested the flaps and rudder that let them control the shuttle's flight once
it entered the Earth's atmosphere. Next, they test-fired the jets that controlled
the shuttle before it reached the atmosphere. Lindsey and Boe then worked with
the Ram Burn Observations experiment. They did burns of an orbital maneuvering
system engine for the experiment, aimed at bettering understanding of spacecraft
NASA reported the crew spent
considerable time stowing items in Discovery's cabin in preparing for re-entry
and landing. All participated in a de-orbit briefing before lunch. After the
meal, the crew took time off from packing to talk with representatives of the
The crew's previous day had
gotten off to a rocking start with a live rendition of "Blue Sky" sung by
guitar-wielding Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. It was the
first live performance of wake-up music in Mission Control. The song, written
for Discovery's return to flight mission after Columbia's loss, won NASA's Top
40 wake-up song contest.
"That was terrific," Lindsey
radioed down to Mohr. "We really appreciate it, and congratulations on winning
Mohr, with his three band
members in the control center, thanked Lindsey for his courage, bravery "and
your effort in just giving all of us a better shot at knowing more. It's very
inspirational to the arts as well."
During the shuttle's final
spaceflight, the STS-133 crew members delivered important spare parts to the
International Space Station along with the Express Logistics Carrier-4. Steve
Bowen replaced Tim Kopra as mission specialist 2 following a bicycle injury
Jan. 15 that prohibited Kopra from supporting the launch window. Bowen last
flew on Atlantis in May 2010 as part of the STS-132 crew. Flying on the STS-133
mission makes Bowen the first astronaut ever to fly on consecutive missions.
Discovery was the shuttle
that launched the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ulysses probe designed to
study the Sun. The shuttle also carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn,
who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 in October 1998, making
him the oldest person to venture into space. Discovery has flown 38 flights,
completed 5,247 orbits and spent 322 days in orbit. The shuttle is the orbiter
fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet,
including four in 1985 alone.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.