News

    Retired Space Shuttle to Hitch a Ride to US Capital

    The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft arrives at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:35 p.m. EDT to prepare for space shuttle Discovery's ferry flight to Virginia.
    The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft arrives at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:35 p.m. EDT to prepare for space shuttle Discovery's ferry flight to Virginia.

    Before NASA's space shuttle Discovery was retired, it

    • Completed 39 missions.
    • Spent 365 days in space.
    • Orbited the Earth 5,830 times.
    • Traveled a total of 238,539,663 kilometers.

    NASA's space shuttle Discovery has traveled more than 238 million kilometers in space, and the now retired orbiter has roughly 1,000 kilometers more to go before its final stop.  It will leave the Kennedy Space Center on April 17, bound for a museum.  

    One Last Flight


    It was a little more than a year ago that the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on its final mission.  

    The 28-year-old orbiter will take off from the southern state of Florida one last time.  But for this voyage, it will not be blast off a launch pad.  Instead, it will hitch a ride on the back of one of NASA's specially outfitted Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

    Valerie Neal is a space history curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum here in Washington.  Her dangling earrings in the shape of space shuttles are only one indication of her excitement about Discovery's final flight.

    "We're very excited about that because Discovery will be flown on top of a 747 carrier aircraft, and it will do a flyaround here in the metropolitan [Washington, D.C.] area so that people around Washington will be able to see this very unusual sight," Neal says. "It will land, and then it will go off to a private part of the airport to be offloaded from the carrier aircraft."

    Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead view shows space shuttle Discovery in high bay 4 with the Astrovan alongside. The Astrovan was used to transport astronauts to Launch Complex 39 for space shuttle missions. April 5, 2012 (NASA Photo)
    Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead view shows space shuttle Discovery in high bay 4 with the Astrovan alongside. The Astrovan was used to transport astronauts to Launch Complex 39 for space shuttle missions. April 5, 2012 (NASA Photo)

    Discovery's Unveiling

    John Glenn signs the wall of the clean room leading into space shuttle Discovery in Orbiter Processing Facility-1 OPF-1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Glenn is at the space center to mark the 50th anniversary of being the first American astron
    John Glenn signs the wall of the clean room leading into space shuttle Discovery in Orbiter Processing Facility-1 OPF-1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Glenn is at the space center to mark the 50th anniversary of being the first American astron
    On April 19, Discovery will be unveiled as part of the collection at the museum's Udvar-Hazy center, just outside the capital.  Some of Discovery's famous former passengers will be in attendance, including astronaut John Glenn - who in 1962 was the first American to orbit the Earth.  He returned to space on Discovery in 1998.    

    The Air and Space Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world, with its main location in downtown Washington, near the city's grand monuments and attractions.  The museum's Udvar-Hazy annex alone attracts more than a million visitors each year.
    But as the museum gains one famous piece, it will lose another.  The world's first space shuttle, Enterprise, has been part of the Smithsonian's collection since 1985.  Discovery will replace Enterprise, and that shuttle will catch a piggyback ride on the 747 to New York City, where it will go on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

    Smithsonian curator Valerie Neal explains that Enterprise is a test vehicle that never flew in space, so it does not have the same rich history as orbiters such as Discovery.    

    "It [i.e., Discovery] will look just like [the shuttle atmospheric test vehicle] Enterprise does, except instead of being white and black and looking brand new, it's more beige and gray," say Neal.  "It looks like it's been to space and back 39 times, and that's how we want it to look."

    At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Discovery arrives outside Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) after stopping for a unique
    At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Discovery arrives outside Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) after stopping for a unique "nose-to-nose" photo opportunity outside OPF-3 with shuttle Endeavour. (NASA Photo) Shuttle Retirement


    NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who has flown on Discovery and is now on the International Space Station, says the 30-year-old shuttle fleet has earned its retirement.

     

    "It brought up some spectacular observatories into space and some satellites, and it helped build this nearly 1,000,000 pound [i.e., almost 453,600 kilograms] world class laboratory [i.e., the International Space Station] that we have the great privilege of working and living aboard for six months," Burbank says. "I think having the space shuttles in museums where people can come and see them and learn about them and learn about the wonderful technology, I think it'll be a good thing."

    Rounding out the retired shuttle fleet are Endeavour and Atlantis, which will go to California and Florida.  NASA's two other shuttles, Challenger and Columbia, were destroyed in flight, killing all astronauts on board.

    The U.S. space agency retired the shuttle fleet last year to focus on developing the next generation of spacecraft that will travel beyond low earth orbit.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: historianMI
    April 18, 2012 6:51 AM
    This was not a "voyage" by any reasonable definition. It was a final short trip from Cape Canaveral to a museum; almost a funeral procession viewed by thousands of mourners. And Obama has not plans whatsoever for any new space program. Leave that to Russia, China and North Korea (!!)

    by: HARSHAN MENON
    April 17, 2012 11:52 PM
    Arrival at Kennedy space center ?
    Would like to know public opinion:

    LIKE - YES OR NO

    UNLIKE - YES OR NO

    HARSHAN
    PROPRIETOR
    IMC

    SKYPE : harshan.menon1
    MOBILE: 0091 9388793618
    EMAIL : cgimenonbus@yahoo.com

    by: Stephane luako Lombo
    April 16, 2012 1:54 AM
    It was at edge of space technology,but it is time for N.A.S.A to pursue its innovative edge and switch to the next generation of technology,to keep its and look forward.
    Mr.Stephane luako Lombo-Kinshasa-D.R.Congo

    by: kris
    April 13, 2012 10:54 PM
    it was weird

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora