Space Shuttle Discovery moving to Vehicle Assembly Building  Discovery is being processed for retirement and placed in storage on July 13 in the VAB before transport to permanent home at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  Credit: Ken Kremer

Stripped Down Discovery rolls towards Retirement at Kennedy Space Center

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Space Shuttle Discovery was briefly on public display on Wednesday July 13 as she emerged from the hanger at the Kennedy Space Center where she has been undergoing processing for retirement since her final landing on the STS-133 mission.

It was a rather stark and sad moment because Discovery looked almost naked and downtrodden – and there was no doubt that she would never again fly majestically to space because huge parts of the orbiter were totally absent.

Discovery was stripped bare of her three main engines and orbital maneuvering pods at the rear and she had a giant hole in the front, just behind the nose, that was covered in see through plastic sheeting that formerly housed her now missing forward thrusters. Without these essential components, Discovery cannot move 1 nanometer.

When the Space Shuttle is forcibly retired in about a week, America will have no capability to launch astronauts into space and to the International Space Station for many many years to come.

Discovery was pulled a quarter mile from the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to make room for Space Shuttle Atlantis when she returns next week from the STS-135 mission, according to Stephanie Stilson, the flow manager for Discovery, in an interview with Universe Today.

Stephanie Stilson,NASA KSC flow manager for Discovery. Credit: Ken Kremer

STS-135 is the 135th and final mission of NASA’s 30 year long Space Shuttle Program.

NASA now only has control of two of the three shuttle OPF’s since one OPF has been handed over to an unnamed client, Stilson said.

Stilson is leading the NASA team responsible for safing all three Space Shuttle Orbiters. “We are removing the hypergolic fuel and other toxic residues to prepare the orbiters for display in the museums where they will be permanently housed.”

“The safing work on Discovery should be complete by February 2012,” Stilson told me. “NASA plans to transport Discovery to her permanent home at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on April 12, 2012, which coincides with the anniversary of the first shuttle launch on April 12, 1981.”

Discovery Photo Album by Ken Kremer

Discovery emerges from OPF 2 processing hanger. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery exits OPF 2 minus main engines. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery moves from OPF 2 to VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery moves from OPF 2 to VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery on public display on Wednesday July 13. Credit: Ken Kremer

Below Discovery’s wing. Credit: Ken Kremer

Gaping hole in Discovery - minus forward reaction control thruster. Credit: Ken Kremer

Rear view of Discovery beside VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery entering the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery enters the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Viewing Discovery from the 5th Floor of the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery parked on the ground floor of the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
DrFlimmer
Member
DrFlimmer
July 15, 2011 9:03 AM

To quote Dr. Phil Plait

“A space ship’s home is not earth.”

Dolmance
Member
Dolmance
July 15, 2011 10:18 AM

It’s a disgrace.

Tomasz Czarnecki
Guest
Tomasz Czarnecki
July 15, 2011 11:18 AM

Well, now we know why Mars is painted red – it will be ussr who makes it their colony…

Dan Sanderson
Guest
July 15, 2011 12:39 PM

I assume you are referring to Russia? It’s not the cold war any more smile

Paul Holt
Guest
Paul Holt
July 15, 2011 11:41 AM

That’s a picture going to hit a lot of people hard. Hope there’s a fire under someone’s pants right now to get a replacement fully funded.

Vedran Vrhovac
Guest
July 15, 2011 8:40 AM

This is sad scene

Howard Beny
Guest
Howard Beny
July 15, 2011 1:46 PM

This it a terrible loss to US and the world. They will surely be missed…. sad Someone need to get their priorities straight and get us back to space, The USA has always been a leader… til now.

Tee
Guest
Tee
July 16, 2011 9:36 PM

No., this country hasn’t been a leader in decades.. After President Reagan left office was the last time this country was a leader and lead by a true leader.. The U.S.A. has been dwindling downwards and falling by the wayside since then., by its own doing.. That is the sad and tragic part of this story..

Baris Bicer
Guest
Baris Bicer
July 15, 2011 2:24 PM

NASA is the only organization in the world that can make me feel real emotional connections to machines. Spirit, Hubble, Cassini. the shuttles, New Horizons, JWST, etc. etc.

David Mackintosh
Guest
David Mackintosh
July 15, 2011 2:25 PM

Hopefully she’ll be fitted with prosthetic substitutes before being displayed.

dave ache
Guest
dave ache
July 15, 2011 3:05 PM

Man… now that I see this it really home that they’re really done with them… Hopefully in the centuries to come someone gets a hold of it and puts it in space again, where it belongs.

Lochana Allendale Pahalawatte
Guest
July 15, 2011 4:13 PM

Aww…. ='(

Lochana Allendale Pahalawatte
Guest
July 15, 2011 4:13 PM

Aww…. ='(

Felipe Ábrigo H.
Guest
Felipe Ábrigo H.
July 15, 2011 7:02 PM

This is very, truly sad. I am a bit shocked to see this mutilated spacecraft. I think it reflects exactly what we all feel about this ending. Space program has been mutilated very badly. I hope the US’s next government has the balls to get back in space.

Florian Wardell
Guest
Florian Wardell
July 15, 2011 7:21 PM

It looks mutilated. This is making me sick.

AwkwardEngineer
Guest
July 15, 2011 8:24 PM

Sad day.

Yanik Laube
Guest
Yanik Laube
July 15, 2011 11:22 PM

It seems like such a waste to do such a thing. Such a sad thing to do. The Shuttle programme is the best and always will be.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
July 16, 2011 1:24 AM

You guys should check out Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, with row upon row of ‘mothballed’ (which implies, of course, that they cold be returned to flight status) and cannibalized aircraft…

Once cleaned up and made safe (those missing OMS pods use very toxic hydrazine propellant…that’s why some of the Shuttle post-landing crews wear what look like spacesuits, themselves. They’ll be replaced.), the orbiters are going to museums, not scrap…just like every surviving US capsule and X-Plane to date.

Don’t grieve, she (and her sisters) will be well taken care of, seen by many who could not see her before, and other vehicles *will* follow in her stead, some of them going places she could not…

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
July 16, 2011 4:23 AM

Wow no way dude that is just WAY too cool! Wow.

http://www.real-privacy.no.tc

MichaelL
Member
July 15, 2011 11:48 PM

In all honesty, it will not be “many, many years” before the US returns to space. In all likelihood, Space-X or another commercial company will have a launcher up and flying by 2014 or 15.

Bruce Thompson
Guest
July 16, 2011 7:47 AM

Oh my god! It’s NAKED!

deloprojet
Guest
July 16, 2011 9:02 AM

It’s sad to watch

wpDiscuz