Government IT: NASA`s Space Shuttle Discovery Through the Decades
NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery Through the Decades
by Nathan Eddy
Discovery by Moonlight
First flown in 1984, Discovery became the third operational orbiter and is now the oldest orbiter in service.
A nearly full moon sets as the space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch pad 39A in March 2009.
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.
A crane lowers Discovery toward the external tank and solid rocket boosters already stacked on the mobile launcher platform.
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.
Each engine is 14 feet long, weighs about 6,700 pounds and is 7.5 feet in diameter at the end of the nozzle.
A view of the space shuttle soon after the craft and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation.
Doors of Discovery
The payload bay doors are closed in preparation for the orbiter's move to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building.
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.
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.