She is the oldest and most storied vessel remaining in the fleet, having flown more flights than any other Orbiter. She was entrusted three times by NASA to fly shuttle crews for the most anticipated missions of the agency’s shuttle history, three “Return to Flight” missions. Twice she was chosen to transport two of NASA’s most prized possessions, the Hubble Space Telescope and the oldest human to venture into space, Project Mercury astronaut, former Congressman and Presidential candidate John Glenn. To date she has flown 38 flights, and completed 5,247 orbits.
With the majesty, beauty and grace of a champion stallion, Discovery thundered into orbit from Launch Pad 39A on February 24 for her last and final trip down the red carpet. By the time this mission ends, this lady will have tacked on another 4.5 million miles. She will have spent 363 days in space and circled Earth 5,800 times when Discovery returns to earth March 7.
I felt very honored to have been invited to witness the final launch of this majestic bird. During my career as a NASA aerospace photojournalist I had the privilege to be associated with many of the successes accomplished by this exceptional flying machine. It was a very emotional moment as I stood witnessing the countdown and with the announcement, “ We have liftoff of Discovery and STS- 133”, the final journey of Discovery. At that very moment, I knew that there was absolutely NO question as to why this Nation is and should continue to be the leader into space.
I offer homage to the beauty and majesty of this incredible spacecraft.
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