After the return to Earth that took place yesterday the Space Shuttle Discovery has been retired.
The Discovery takes its name from the British ship commanded by Captain James Cook during his exploration of the Pacific Ocean between 1776 and 1780. It’s part of the American Space Shuttle fleet.
The Space Shuttle Discovery departed on its first mission on August 30, 1984 from the Kenndy Space Center. In about a year the Discovery carried into orbit several telecommunications satellites.
In 1988 the Discovery was the first shuttle to be launched when the program was resumed after the Challenger accident.
In 1990 the Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. Over the years two of its next missions included repairs and upgrades to the Hubble.
In the following years several missions included a docking to the International Space Station to bring astronauts, supplies and components to expand it or to bring home the astronauts who had finished their work at the station.
In 2005 the Discovery was the first shuttle to be launched when the program was resumed after the Columbia accident.
The last mission, with the official designation STS-133, was originally scheduled for September 2010 but several technical problems caused a series of delays that eventually moved the mission date to February 24, 2011, when it was finally launched.
At the end of this mission the Space Shuttle Discovery has flown nearly 150 million miles during 39 flights for a total of 5,247 orbits in 322 days divided over 27 years of distinguished service and in this case it’s not just rhetoric. With these numbers the Discovery is the spaceship that was used the most.
The Discovery retirement is unfortunately the beginning of the end of the Space Shuttle program. There are in fact still two missions to be carried out by the Endeavour and the Atlantis during this year to close the glorious era of the Space Shuttle.
It’s a sad time, especially for people like me who grew up following the Shuttles missions, also for the bad news about what was to be the new project of an American spacecraft. It really is an era that is ending.