Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Media response to Ottawa shooting

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

"Canada's Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame"

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Manuel Valls and the "art of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth"

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

Daniele Balice, Co-founder of the gallery Balice Hertling

Read more

FOCUS

Tunisia: Religious education claims bigger role in curriculum

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Budget tensions heat up in Brussels as EU leaders meet for second day

Read more

DEBATE

Canada's jihadists: Country in shock after spate of attacks (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Canada's jihadists: Country in shock after spate of attacks

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Burkina Faso: Government seeks referendum

Read more

Americas

Iconic NASA shuttle Discovery makes final flight to museum

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-04-17

US Space shuttle Discovery – the world’s most traveled spaceship – flew over Washington Tuesday as part of its final flight before retirement in a Virginia museum. The US retired its space shuttle fleet last year.

REUTERS - The space shuttle Discovery made its final voyage on Tuesday: a piggyback jet ride to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex in Virginia.

The United States retired its space shuttles last year after finishing construction of the $100 billion International Space Station, a project of 15 countries, to begin work on a new generation of spaceships that can carry astronauts to destinations beyond the station’s 240-mile-high (384-km-high) orbit.

Discovery, the fleet leader of NASA’s three surviving shuttles, completed its last spaceflight in March 2011. It was promised to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the nation’s official repository for space artifacts.

“It’s sad to see this happening,” said NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a member of Discovery’s final crew. “But you look at it and you just can’t help but be impressed by it. That’s my hope now, that every time someone looks at that vehicle they are impressed, that they feel that this is what we can do when we challenge ourselves.”

For its last ride, Discovery took off not from its seaside launch pad but atop a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet that taxied down the Kennedy Space Center’s runway at dawn. The shuttle’s tail was capped with an aerodynamically shaped cone and its windows were covered.

“It’s a very emotional, poignant, bittersweet moment,” said former astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions. “When it’s all happening you think, ‘This will never end,’ but we all move on.”

After a looping around the U.S. capital and delighting spectators on the National Mall, the shuttle carrier plane touched down at Washington Dulles International Airport shortly after 11 a.m. EDT.

Discovery, which first flew in August 1984, was to be transferred to the Smithsonian’s nearby Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Discovery will replace Enterprise, a prototype orbiter on display at the museum that was used for atmospheric test flights in the 1970s.

Enterprise is being transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City this month.

Sisterships Endeavour and Atlantis will go on exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, respectively, later this year.

“We need to preserve our history for future generations and send these off to museums to remember what we did,” said former astronaut Steven Lindsey, the commander of the last Discovery crew who now works with privately held Sierra Nevada Corp., one of several firms developing commercial space taxis for NASA and other customers.

“All the lessons learned from shuttle, we’re using in the design of our spacecraft. We’re updating the technologies, but the basic principles are the same. Every program builds on the previous program," Lindsey said.

Date created : 2012-04-17

  • SPACE

    NASA twin probes begin circling moon

    Read more

  • SPACE

    Endeavor prepares for voyage to International Space Station

    Read more

  • SPACE

    Discovery space shuttle to be retired after returning from last mission

    Read more

COMMENT(S)