Discovery Enters Eternal Smithsonian Home as Historic Relic

by Ken Kremer on April 20, 2012

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Discovery and Enterprise rest nose-to-nose at ceremony transferring ownership of Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum on April 19, 2012. More than a dozen Commanders of Space Shuttle Discovery as well as Senator and Astronaut John Glenn - who flew aboard Discovery - attended the official deed transfer ceremony which took place at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Credit: Ken Kremer

Space Shuttle Discovery, the longest serving and most flown spaceship in human history, entered her eternal home today, Thursday, April 19, at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Annex in Virginia.

Discovery thereby assumed her new status as a museum relic and monument to the promise and glorious dreams of space exploration, inspiring future generations of explorers to reach far beyond their grasp and accomplish the unthinkable. That’s what space and science are all about.

The space shuttle program and all three of NASA’s winged spaceships were forcibly retired by politicians at the conclusion of the final shuttle mission, STS-135, in July 2011 which left America with no means to launch our own astronauts into space and to the International Space Station.

Shuttle astronauts march with Discovery being towed from Dulles to the Smithsonian’s Udvar Hazy Center on April 19, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

Discovery officially became the property of the Smithsonian Museum when NASA Administrator Charles Bolden signed the title of ownership over from NASA to the world renowned museum at a public ceremony held today at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

“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,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “As NASA transfers the shuttle orbiters to museums across the country, we are embarked on an exciting new space exploration journey. Relying on American ingenuity and know-how, NASA is partnering with private industry to provide crew and cargo transportation to the International Space Station, while developing the most powerful rocket ever built to take the nation farther than ever before into the solar system.”

National Air and Space Museum Director, General John “Jack” Dailey said, “Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America’s shuttle fleet. In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come. The Museum is committed to teaching and inspiring youngsters, so that they will climb the ladder of academic success and choose professions that will help America be competitive and successful in the world of tomorrow.”

Bolden and Dailey signed the transfer documents in front of the huge crowd who came to celebrate Discovery’s arrival.

Shuttle astronauts march with Discovery being towed from Dulles to the Smithsonian’s Udvar Hazy Center on April 19, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

The official handover ceremony was witnessed by a prestigious gathering of some three dozen astronauts including more than a dozen men and women who served as Commanders of Space Shuttle Discovery and Senator and Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth 50 years ago in 1962.

Glenn flew to space for the 2nd time aboard Discovery as a payload specialist in 1998 at the age of 77. He is the oldest person to fly in space.

Shuttle astronauts march with Discovery being towed to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center and official Welcome ceremony on April 19, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

And the general public showed their enthusiastic support for NASA and space exploration by attending in the thousands and staying all day for the dozens of activity stations, presentations and displays organized by NASA and the Smithsonian and its donors.

Glenn made clear his disagreement with the end of NASA’s shuttle program.

Discovery arrives at her final resting place in the Smithsonian on April 19, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

To make way for Discovery, Space Shuttle Enterprise was first towed out a huge rear door of the museum early this morning. Discovery and Enterprise then met nose to nose as the dramatic backdrop for the official welcoming ceremony.

Late this afternoon, Discovery was towed to her final resting place into the museum to the exact spot formerly held by Enterprise, which had been on display at the Virginia facility since 2003.

Altogether, Discovery flew 39 missions and spent a full year (365 days) in space, orbited Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles during a space flight career spanning 27 years.

Discovery flew its maiden voyage on Aug. 30, 1984 and blasted off on her final voyage on Feb. 24, 2011. The STS-133 mission was the final flight for the illustrious orbiter which landed at the Kennedy Space Center on March 9, 2012.

Discovery deployed the iconic Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, one of the premier science instruments built by humankind. Discovery delivered many other science payloads to orbit and also to explore the solar system, including the Ulysses solar probe.

The winged spaceship was NASA’s fleet leading orbiter and played a significant role in building the International Space Station and visiting the Russian Mir Space Station.

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Lantz Dennison April 20, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Space flights are better off in the hands of the private sector however, this is what your government is doing with our money, if it will hurt there pay check them they will cancel it no matter the cost to others.

Mark April 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Thank you, Discovery, and God bless all who flew in her – and those who will care for her in retirement.

You did good, ol’ gal.

Ken_Del_Piero April 20, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Great website.

I would beg to differ on the shuttles being “forcibly retired by politicians.” After the second shuttle accident the recommendation was made to the government that the system was fatally flawed. The original design compromises that stuck the orbiter on the side of a giant tank and two giant firecrackers set the inevitable consequences in motion.

Unfortunately, the shuttles could not be retired until the ISS was finished . . . and every flight was a crap shoot. The Bush administration terminated the program, but agreed to allow them to keep flying only until the station was finished.

For more insight read the latest entry on Wayne Hales’s blog.

http://waynehale.wordpress.com/

Regards,

Ken

Beavers205 April 20, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Reminds me of going to a funeral.

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