This past April, huge crowds welcome Space Shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven Ferencz Udvar-Házy Center. Last week, while on the east coast, I was overjoyed to finally see Discovery up close!
And wow, does she ever look every bit her age and flight-worn effort. Clean her up? Nah. Why should we? She should look like she's been to space and back 39 times!
With ThinkGeek Timmy... and hey look, a Space Shuttle
Shuttle Discovery's maiden flight was STS-41-D in August of 1984, which launched two communications satellites. Over her entire career, she would release 31 total.
Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope on mission STS-31, and returned twice on later servicing missions.
Of her 39 flights, she has flown to the Mir Space Station twice, and to the ISS 13 times, delivering trusses, supplies, and two major modules: Kibo and Harmony.
SpaceTweeps in the House!
Discovery carried 246 crew members, including the very first Russian cosmonaut launched in an American spacecraft, Sergei Krikalev on STS-60 in 1994.
She has spent 351 days in orbit and made 5,628 orbits around planet Earth.
Shuttle Discovery flew the 100th Shuttle Mission in the year 2000... and I'm happy to say, I got to see this one launch personally. What a blast. Literally!
My buddy Glenn checking out the Nose Job
Shuttle Discovery STS-120 flew the light-saber used by Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) in "Return of the Jedi." In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars film franchise, Chewbacca (actor Peter Mayhew) presented the famed movie prop to NASA, where it was packed into a Shuttle locker and spent two weeks in orbit. George Lucas attended Discovery's launch, and the light saber was later returned to Lucasfilm Ltd. for display in a traveling exhibit.
Less famous and quirky, but among my personal favorites, is how a rookie astronaut named Eileen Collins took Amelia Earhart's scarf on her first spaceflight aboard Shuttle Discovery STS-63.
Mark & Glenn over the wings
Best. Hangar. Ever. Until I see the next one, anyway. Notice that I named my gallery of pictures "Space Shuttles"... plural! I hope to see Endeavour in Los Angeles and Atlantis in Florida in 2013! Click here or on any of the photographs above to see the entire collection at Pillownaut Picasa.
Want to check out the hangar without flying to Washington DC? Udvar-Hazy also has awesome Space Shuttle Discovery web cams!