Discovery's Last Voyage to Space
Sunday, January 23, 2022

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Discovery was a "perfect vehicle from start to finish on her final flight," the mission commander Steven Lindsey radioed Mission Control after landing the shuttle

smoothly despite windy conditions. With the STS-133 crew in tow, space shuttle Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, February 24, at 4:53 p.m. EST -- her final ride to the International Space Station. In addition to transporting Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and Mission Specialists Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Alvin Drew, and Steve Bowen, Discovery also carried the Express Logistics Carrier-4, and Robonaut 2, the first robot of its kind to fly into and work in space: "Great job by you and your crew. That was a great landing in tough conditions and it was an awesome docked mission that you all had," Mission Control told the crew, adding that the mission's 13 days boosted Discovery to a full year of cumulative time in space. "I think that you'd call that a fleet leader and a leader of any manned vehicle for time in orbit. So, job well done." As the shuttle's six-astronaut crew rightly predicted, the air at the landing site was tinged with a mixture of celebration and sadness. "It really is an honor and a privilege to be able to fly Discovery at any time, and the fact that we're on this final flight really stands out to us," mission specialist Nicole Stott said during an in-flight interview. "It's a real opportunity to celebrate the really great things that have gone on with Discovery. I think when we walk away from her on the runway, there's going to be tears in my eyes. I worked with her at KSC and the chance to fly her has just been a real, real privilege."

 

The next mission for Discovery will never leave Earth. NASA plans to begin preparing the shuttle for public display in a museum, likely the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Discovery is the first of NASA's space shuttles to be retired, but all three will eventually end up on display in a museum somewhere in the country. An intense competition among 29 different institutions has been under way for the limited number of shuttles. NASA will announce the final destinations for Discovery and its two sister ships on April 12 – the 30th anniversary for the shuttle program.