April 20, 2012
Discovery Laid To Rest At Smithsonian
Space shuttle Discovery found its way to its retirement facility on Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
Discovery landed in Washington D.C. on Tuesday after taking off for the last time in Florida aboard a modified Boeing 747 jet.
The spacecraft rolled into its new home amidst thousands of people cheering for the 27-year-old space shuttle.
"Today, while we look back at Discovery's amazing legacy, I also want to look forward to what she and the shuttle fleet helped to make possible," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said during the ceremony on Thursday.
"As NASA transfers the shuttle orbiters to museums across the country, we are embarked on an exciting new space exploration journey."
The retirement of Discovery, as well as space shuttle Atlantis and Endeavour, marks the end of a program that taxied astronauts to and from space for the last 30 years.
Discovery was the shuttle that helped launched the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as brought astronauts to service the Hubble later in the telescope's mission.
It made its final landing on March 9, 2011, after flying over 39 successful missions throughout its service.
"Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America's shuttle fleet," National Air and Space Museum Director, General John "Jack" Dailey told the crowd. "In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come."
He ensured everyone of the well being the space shuttle will experience at the museum, saying that it will be a tool used to teach and inspire youth.
With the shuttle program retired, NASA is relying on commercial companies to help transport cargo, and astronauts, to the International Space Station.
The space agency is partnering with private industries like SpaceX to build rockets of the future, and provide man with new options for space adventures.
SpaceX will be launching its Dragon spacecraft on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, echoing a new dawn of space ingenuity just weeks after Discovery's retirement.
NASA announced last week that the spacecraft will make a test run to the International Space Station during this flight.
While speaking about the new spacecraft at the event on Thursday, Bolden said the Dragon was "the most powerful rocket ever built to take the nation farther than ever before into the solar system."
He said NASA is "relying on American ingenuity" through private industry to provide crew and cargo transportation to the ISS.
The space agency said in a press release that this new era will help send humans depeer into space than ever before. It said that NASA is using the space station as a test bed and stepping stone for the journey ahead.
"The agency is changing the way it does business and fostering a commercial industry that will safely service low Earth orbit, so NASA can focus its energy and resources on sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and eventually to Mars in the 2030s," NASA wrote in a press release following Thursday's ceremony.
Image Caption: Space Shuttles Enterprise, left, and Discovery meet nose-to-nose at the beginning of a transfer ceremony at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Chantilly, Va. Space shuttle Discovery, the first orbiter retired from NASA´s shuttle fleet, completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times, and traveled 148,221,675 miles will take the place of Enterprise at the center to commemorate past achievements in space and to educate and inspire future generations of explorers at the center. Photo Credit: (NASA/Smithsonian Institution/Carolyn Russo)