NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery Through the Decades

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NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery Through the Decades

by Nathan Eddy

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Discovery by Moonlight

First flown in 1984, Discovery became the third operational orbiter and is now the oldest orbiter in service.

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Discovery Aglow

A nearly full moon sets as the space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch pad 39A in March 2009.

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Discovery Comes Home

The spacecraft takes its name from four British ships of exploration named Discovery, primarily HMS Discovery, one of the ships commanded by Captain James Cook.

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Discovery Descending

A crane lowers Discovery toward the external tank and solid rocket boosters already stacked on the mobile launcher platform.

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Lighting up Discovery

Xenon lights over Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida compete with the lightning strike seen to the left.

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Discovery Prepared

Each engine is 14 feet long, weighs about 6,700 pounds and is 7.5 feet in diameter at the end of the nozzle.

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Discovery Revealed

A view of the space shuttle soon after the craft and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation.

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Doors of Discovery

The payload bay doors are closed in preparation for the orbiter's move to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building.

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Above the Clouds

The shuttle hitches a ride on NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for the flight to Kennedy Space Center in August 2005.

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Discovery's Last Ride

It takes the shuttle, attached to its external fuel tank, twin solid-rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform, about six hours to complete the move atop a crawler-transporter.

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