On February 24th the Space Shuttle Discovery began its 39th and final mission to space. Discovery is NASA’s most-flown spacecraft having travelled over 143 million miles since 1984. It is also NASA’s oldest orbiter in the fleet.
Discovery is also unique in the fact that it has twice been chosen as the ‘return to flight’ orbiter: first in 1988 after the Challenger disaster and then again in 2005 after the 2003 Columbia disaster. Discovery was also the Space Shuttle which launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990.
The final mission for Discovery is to deliver the Pressurized Multipurpose Module Leonardo (a supply module) and Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. The Robonaut 2 is also the first humanoid robot to go into space. After returning home the Discovery will be decomissioned and will go on public display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. There is an excellent gallery of images of the Discovery Space Shuttle over at The Atlantic which is also where the image above comes from.
I’ve also included some videos of the launch below.