Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thanks, Shuttle Discovery

...the last few seconds of Discovery flying on it own this morning.

Recap of this amazing vehicle: 39 missions, 365 days in space, 5,830 orbits of the Earth, 148,221,665 miles traveled. It has gone through 39 sets of landing-gear tires since its first flight in 1984.

But what did Discovery accomplish beyond the numbers? Nicole Stott, one of the astronauts on Discovery's final mission, said Discovery is remarkable.

"It is kind of cool that the vehicle named Discovery has this kind of history, the most flights," she said in a preflight interview with ABC News. "I think it really sums up what the space program is about -- it is about discovery."

Discovery flew both return-to-flight missions after its sister ships, Challenger and Columbia, were lost. It launched the Hubble Space Telescope. It carried John Glenn, one of America's first space pioneers, on his sentimental return to space in 1998. It assembled the first components of the International Space Station.

It has flown more times than any other spaceship in history.

"Without Discovery, and the other space shuttles, we would not have built the space station," said Leroy Cain, NASA's deputy space shuttle program manager, who marveled how a 900,000 plus pound orbiting lab was assembled on orbit, thanks to the space shuttle. "Nothing else has the capability to carry up those big modules, and the parts needed to keep it functioning, it is truly a remarkable spacecraft."

Deb, Will, and I got to see STS-133 take off -- truly something we'll never forget!

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