The Space Legacy of Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy: 27 Years of the Right Stuff


This illustration depicts NASA's space shuttle Discovery encircled by the mission patches from each of its 39 missions, from STS-41D to STS-133, to display its long legacy as NASA's most-flown orbiter. The shuttle is flying its 39th and last flight in February/March 2011.

A Space Plane Is Born


The most prolific space shuttle in NASA’s fleet is Discovery, which will fly its last mission in February/March 2011. But NASA had to build Discovery before it could fly its 39 space missions and here is how it was done. In this view, Rockwell engineers check the fit between Discovery’s upper and lower forward cabin sections on Feb. 26, 1982.

I Just Flew in from the Coast


NASA's newest space shuttle, Discovery, makes a triumphant fly-by of the Florida Space Coast and the Kennedy Space Center runway before landing at 1:46 p.m. Discovery is shown riding into town secured to the back of a specially modified 747 aircraft known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The orbiter was arriving from the Palmdale, Calif. assembly plant where it was built. This image was taken on Oct. 9, 1983.

Feels Like the First Time


Space Shuttle Discovery soars away from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, beginning its maiden voyage and a storied spaceflight career that spanned more than 26 years. The on-time liftoff occurred at 8:42 A.M. EDT. This image was taken on Aug. 30, 1984.

Discovery's First Crew


Discovery's first crew, the astronauts of STS 41-D, pose in the middeck for an onboard crew portrait during the shuttle's first flight in 1984.

Givin' You the (Fish-) Eye


In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, shuttle Discovery roars away from Launch Pad 39B at 7:45 a.m. EDT as the STS-51 mission begins. The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite and attached Transfer Orbit Stage booster were deployed during the flight, along with a second primary payload, the Orbiting and Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph-Shuttle Pallet Satellite. This image was taken Sept. 12, 1993.

A Different Point of View


Carried by its mobile launcher platform, shuttle Discovery slowly moves through the high bay doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building on the way to Launch Pad 39A before the STS-82 mission. A seven-member crew performed the second servicing of the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope during the flight. This image was taken Jan. 17, 1997.

The Day Breaks


Sunrise paints a stunning backdrop for space shuttle Discovery as it touches down on Runway 33 at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility at 7:07:59 a.m. EDT to complete the 11-day, 20-hour and 27-minute-long STS-85 mission. This was the 39th landing at Kennedy in the history of the space shuttle program and the 11th touchdown for Discovery at its home center. This image was taken Aug. 19, 1997.

Sit Down


This fish-eye view shows off Discovery's cockpit as it was configured for the STS-95 mission. Commander Curtis Brown's seat is on the left, while Pilot Steve Lindsey's seat is beside it on the right. This image was taken Oct. 13, 1998.

In the White Room with John Glenn


In the launch pad's White Room, STS-95 Payload Specialist John H. Glenn Jr., U.S. Senator from Ohio, has his flight suit checked by closeout crew members before climbing into space shuttle Discovery for his second flight into space, which came 36 years after his Mercury launch. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. The image was taken Oct. 29, 1998.



Reflected in the turn basin at the Launch Complex 39 area, shuttle Discovery and its mobile launcher platform stand atop the crawler-transporter, which carries its cargo at 1 mile an hour to Launch Pad 39B. The vehicle takes several hours to cover the journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad. Discovery was rolling to the pad prior to its STS-96 mission, a logistics and resupply mission for the International Space Station. This image was taken April 23, 1999.

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